Celebrate Small Business Saturday

Under The Hood


With the trials of family holidays and the terrors of chain stores on Black Friday behind us, locally-owned retailers hope to Gulf Coast shoppers find good reason to venture into brick-and-mortar shops on today, Small Business Saturday. While there may not be a line of people camped out in front of any storefronts, the chance to find gifts that aren’t advertised in national circulars offers plenty of reason to trek into places only found in this market.

“Nothing is more special than getting a jewelry box from a downtown jeweler, who knows you and knows you face from around downtown, or to walk into a place like Panache and [the sales person] knows your personal style or can buy with your style in mind,”” says Laura Kresl, marketing coordinator for the Sarasota Downtown Merchants Association. The business organization’s website right now heavily promotes Small Business Saturday, an answer to mall-based rush on Black Friday and to e-retailer’s efforts on Cyber Monday. The merchants’ site spotlights local businesses welcoming customers today and everyday downtown.

American Express has been running a Shop Small countdown to the start of Small Business Saturday. And in addition to directing customers to businesses participating in the campaign, you can also find substantial data on the economic impact of keeping your dollars in local cash registers. American Express notes that 2.4 million small businesses operate in Florida, and as of 2014, those businesses employed 42.8 percent of the workforce in the Sunshine State.

And local business leaders say the economic figures represent just part of the equation. Heather Kasten, executive director of the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance, says that everyone who enjoys the vibrant small down feeling when you walk down Main Street Lakewood Ranch should remember that’s only possible because of the locally owned businesses filling storefronts there. “It’s hometown Americana,” she says, “and what goes along with that is all the small business owners, especially in this world where it is so easy to point, click and ship.”

And of course, many shop owners don’t so much mind is consumers shop online, so long as they buy in town. Kresl, owner of Sarasota-based marketing firm Pro It Out, says merchants realize 80 percent of shoppers today look for goods online before going to the storefront, but when it’s time to see a product in real life, why not check it out at a mom-and-pop store? And when you go to those shops, you just might see something that never popped up in a search on Amazon.

Plus, it beats the madness of a Walmart on Thanksgiving evening. While the mega-brand stores see elbow-to-elbow traffic, the crowds coming to area downtowns remain robust but sane. Why not go somewhere that you can enjoy the weather outside, grab a coffee at Pastry Art and head to find a rare book only available at the stacks of Parker’s Books?

Certainly, the Gulf Coast reaps benefits both in job creation and in an attractive quality of life by having vital and sustainable commerce in its many active downtown areas. Shopping local today does something to keep the region’s character thriving while also getting some things checked off the holiday shopping list.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ Media Group.

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