GREENVILLE — Observant shoppers walking down South Broadway in downtown Greenville may see a small, blue decal affixed to doors and windows of area merchants.
The stickers, which say “Shop Small,” signify that the business is a participant in “Small Business Saturday,” taking place this November 28.
Now marking its sixth year of existence, Small Business Saturday was first promoted in 2010 by American Express as a shopping alternative nestled between “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday.”
The federal government’s Small Business Administration soon hopped on board, touting the benefits of “shopping small.”
Can small brick-and-mortar establishments truly compete against big-box stores and online vendors in this day and age?
The National Retail Federation (NRF) claims that small businesses are actually at an advantage, saying, “[Small businesses are] agile and can adapt to changing conditions throughout the season. Small business owners know their consumers inside and out — because they’re right there interacting with them and can see firsthand the impact of their decisions.”
The NRF estimates that this year one in four holiday shoppers are planning to shop small by making purchases at small, local retail businesses.
Kirsten Berghoff is the owner of Sadie Grace and the manager of Hallmark in downtown Greenville. She says both businesses have participated in the event since its inception.
“Small Business Saturday is a huge success for any local business owner,” said Berghoff. “It’s phenomenal. It’s something I look forward to every year.”
She admits that while it is difficult to gauge exactly how much extra business the day brings in as it varies from year to year, she contends, “It’s more than double what we do on Black Friday.”
Berghoff says the event is important to her shops not only on that Saturday, but throughout the year. She believes that Small Business Saturday builds cohesiveness in the community.
“People need to shop small every day, not just one day out of the year,” she said. “It helps build a sense of community with more people shopping local.”
Vivian Hellwarth of Celina was with her daughters, Sara and Rachel, browsing the selection of goods at Sadie Grace. She said the shoppers in her family typically avoid the Black Friday buzz.
“We enjoy going to small town events and shops,” she said. “We like to support the community. This is more enjoyable.”
Michael Kiser, owner of Michael’s Fine Clocks & Jewelry, calls Small Business Saturday “a win-win for the community.”
“People do come in to support local merchants and they tell us that, which is nice to hear,” he said.
Michael’s will celebrate 30 years in business this coming March, about 10 years at its current location on South Broadway. Kiser said he’s proud of what his business provides to the community.
“Look at the local prices versus the city prices,” he said. “You can still get reasonably priced, professional repairs done here. We’re a full-service store.”
Customer familiarity also plays a vital role in the success of smaller establishments.
“When our customers come in, they know I’m sitting at the bench doing their work,” Kiser said.
Michelle Lawrence, the lead sales representative at Michael’s, added, “We’re on a first-name basis with many of our customers. You don’t always have that with large businesses. You will get that with smaller businesses.”
Brenda’s Beanery, a coffee and pastry shop on South Broadway, has been participating in the annual event since its opening four years ago.
Kathy Weidner, a barista at the shop, says Brenda’s sees an upswing in traffic on Small Business Saturday.
“We do. It’s the holiday weekend, people out shopping like to come in and sit, have coffee and a pastry,” she said.
She added, “Having Small Business Saturday means getting to see a lot more people come in. We hear a lot about the other businesses and get to share feedback about them with others. We also like to tell people about the park and the Garst Museum, things that Greenville has to offer.”
Working in a small business has its advantages, says Weidner.
“We get to know our customers very well,” she remarked. “They like to come in and talk, they love the friendly atmosphere. They like the fact that we take the time to learn what they like to drink — it’s little details like that.”
“In a business like this, you can pay more attention to people,” she said. “Complete strangers come in and strike up a conversation. People can really connect in here. I enjoy having them come in as much as they enjoy coming in.”