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Laurel Iverson, owner of the Bead Jam in New London, is pictured in her store Nov. 17. She said she likes the shop small movement because it promotes small town businesses without boycotting the big box stores that offer good deals on Black Friday. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

After the Friday frenzy, west central Minn. shoppers urged to turn their attention to Main Street businesses

News Willmar,Minnesota 56201 http://www.wctrib.com/sites/default/files/styles/square_300/public/fieldimages/1/1130/20111123111711laureliverson074.jpg?itok=WBT-nJaS
West Central Tribune
(320) 235-6769 customer support
After the Friday frenzy, west central Minn. shoppers urged to turn their attention to Main Street businesses
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

Shopping on Black Friday has become a Thanksgiving tradition nearly as hallowed as turkey and stuffing and giving thanks. But what happens the next day -- the Saturday after Thanksgiving -- is becoming an incr-easingly popular day for shopping at small, locally-owned stores.

A campaign, dubbed "Small Business Saturday" was initiated last year by American Express.

This year, the promotion has taken on a life of its own as small-business owners have accepted the fact they can't stop shoppers from hitting the big stores on Friday, but maybe they can entice them to shop at the small stores on Saturday.

The campaign has been spreading on social media sites, signs in business windows and by word-of-mouth in small town communities across the country, including west central Minnesota.

"We are embracing it and are hoping the local community will recognize the opportunity of shopping locally and maybe starting a new family tradition following Black Friday with Small Business Saturday," said Rick Dahle, owner of Cullens Home Center in Willmar.

The hunt for middle-of-the-night bargains offered at large chain stores on Black Friday has become an unstoppable beast.

But Dahle said after waiting in line three hours and elbowing their way through crowds of shoppers to get the buy-of-the-day, people he talks to on Black Friday don't usually brag about the great deal they got. Instead they wearily say, "I can't believe I just did that. I'll never do that again."

Dahle said small businesses aren't "whining" about fighting against the big guys on Black Friday but are looking for an "opportunity" to show shoppers that good things do indeed come in small stores.

American Express is offering financial incentives for card customers who shop at small businesses as well as free Facebook advertising for participating small businesses.

"It takes a little spark and things get going," said Laurel Iverson, owner of the Bead Jam in New London.

She likes the shop small movement because it promotes small town businesses without boycotting the big box stores that offer Black Friday deals and help make Willmar a regional shopping center. However, she said, if people don't support small businesses they will disappear along with Main Street. "I think people are starting to make that connection," she said.

Randy Czarnetzki, owner of Hardware Hank Express in downtown Willmar, said he's hoping other local business owners "jump on the bandwagon" to promote the Small Business Saturday concept to encourage residents to shop at locally-owned stores.

While it's hard to compete with door-buster prices at 3 a.m. on Black Friday, Czarnetzki said people might be surprised to discover that small, locally-owned stores can be competitive in price while offering customer service that chain stores don't.

Iverson said "personal, knowledgeable service" is a valuable benefit that small businesses offer shoppers every day.

Small Business Saturday will not only help shop owners but the entire community, said Dahle, because it helps keep money circulating locally.

Dahle said 68 cents of every dollar spent at a locally owned store stays in the community compared to 43 cents of every dollar spent at a big box store. Internet sales generate zero tax dollars locally.

The response to Small Business Saturday was positive last year, he said, adding the growth of the promotion this year is "refreshing."

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750
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