2013-11-28 / Front Page

Shop locally this weekend

Area business owners hope Small Business Saturday catches on in Jamestown
By Ken Shane

It seems somewhat ironic that a large corporation would come up with the idea of Small Business Saturday, which takes place this weekend. But when you consider the fact the majority of the company’s clients are small businesses, the impetus behind the idea becomes clearer.

The shopping holiday was first observed in 2010. It’s scheduled annually to fall between Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving when big-box stores are the focus, and Cyber Monday, which is all about online commerce.

American Express supports the event with nationwide television and radio advertising. There is also a strong presence in social media. The advertising campaign encourages holiday shoppers to visit brick-and-mortar shops that are small and local. The Small Business Saturday Facebook page has been “liked” more than 3 million times, and the #SmallBusiness Saturday hashtag has been posted thousands of times on Twitter.

According to the state Department of Labor & Training, smaller employers are defined as businesses with less than 20 employees. They represent 90 percent of all employers in Rhode Island, and 25 percent of all employees. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s office of advocacy reports 64 percent of the net new jobs between 1993 and 2011 were generated by small businesses. Those businesses employ nearly half of all employees in the private sector.

Small Business Saturday has received support from numerous politicians and small business groups across the country. U.S. Sen. Jack Reed is among those who’ve lent their voices in an effort to build awareness of the event among consumers. Earlier this month Reed joined his Senate colleagues in passing a resolution that designated Saturday, Nov. 30, as Small Business Saturday.

“Small businesses are vital to our communities and our economy and the goal of this event is to get more people shopping at locally owned businesses,” said Reed. “Shopping at small businesses and supporting local companies can have a big impact on Rhode Island’s economy. When you shop local, it has a ripple effect through our economy.”

Reed cited a Chicago study of retail economics that determined spending $100 at a locally owned store produces $68 in additional local economic impact. In contrast, spending the same amount at a chain store produces only $43 in local impact.

Heidi Doyle is co-owner of the Island Heron yoga studio. According to Doyle, she raised the idea of supporting Small Business Saturday with the Jamestown Chamber of Commerce in hopes that local merchants could pool their resources to get the message out.

“This is the time of the year that everybody goes shopping,” Doyle said. “It’s easy to go online and get everything you need pretty cheap and delivered to your door. But there’s something nice about supporting the local businesses and your neighbors. Everybody appreciates what a special place this is, and without the local businesses, the town wouldn’t have the same feeling. Shopping at small businesses is a reminder that the little guys are still here and have some great things to offer.”

At Jamestown Designs, owners Carol Anderson and Debbie Anderson Swistak are preparing their store for the holiday season. They spoke of the importance of small shops to a place like Jamestown.

“Small businesses are the backbone of a community,” Anderson said.

These are difficult times for the owners of small businesses, according to Anderson Swistak, because they are forced to compete with both big-box stores, as well as discount shops. She said at Jamestown Designs they try to set themselves apart by offering unique, handmade items that fill a need.

Scott Sherman of Jamestown Hardware said his goal as a business owner is to take care of everyone who needs help.

“Being able to help someone is what I enjoy the most and what I think is most important,” Sherman said. “The community is our lifeline. We take care of people, people take care of us. That’s the way it works.”

Sherman said the comparison of a store like his to a big-box retailer is apples to oranges. While many of the products sold in the stores may look and act the same, they’re not the same. Big-box stores don’t offer the level of customer service available in his store, he says.

“There really isn’t any challenge,” Sherman said.

At Grapes & Gourmet, Will Wilson was preparing for a wine tasting and oyster party to be held later in the evening. Wilson said small business is particularly important in Jamestown because while it is often thought of as a summer town, the local shops make it more of a year-round community.

“Without the small businesses, the community hurts,” Wilson said. “We love the community here. They support us above and beyond. One of the most enjoyable parts of this business is seeing the faces you know, saying hello and catching up. That’s not the kind of stuff you get at Walmart or Target.”

Mike Ridge is coming off his most successful summer at Spinnakers. He joined his fellow business owners in recognizing the importance of small business to the community, and the importance of the community to small business.

“The support of the community of Jamestown for the local businesses is phenomenal,” Ridge said. “Certainly everyone in town benefits from the additional summer traffic from the visitors, but none of us could do very well without the support that we have from the local community. Jamestown is thriving, and that’s in stark contrast to a number of other smaller communities around the state. So that’s impressive.”

In addition to being the president of the Town Council, Kristine Trocki is a board member of the Jamestown Chamber of Commerce and a local business owner. She said Small Business Saturday is particularly important at a time when the lure of big-box stores is powerful.

“We do want to support the small businesses in town and hope that people will think locally before they go off the island to shop,” Trocki said. “Especially during the holidays.”

Trocki pointed out that Jamestown’s traditional boost to local business during the holidays, including the holiday stroll and the Christmas tree lighting, takes place one week after Small Business Saturday. As a result, the chamber is called upon to decide where its resources are best utilized. She expressed the hope that the chamber will be able to lend stronger support to Small Business Saturday in 2014.

“We’ve always had a local version of Small Business Saturday, traditionally on the first Saturday in December,” Trocki said. “We want to support the national event too, and if we can have people participate on both weekends, that’s ideal.”

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