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Small Business Saturday Encourages Holiday Sales In Local Stores

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In the shopping frenzy brought on by the doorbusters and deals of Black Friday, small business often struggle to compete.

North Florida businesses are encouraging shoppers to complete their gift lists locally with Small Business Saturday, a campaign by American Express that offers benefits to customers who participate.

Pam Whittle, president and CEO of the North Florida Regional Chamber of Commerce said Small Business Saturday was a success last year after a strong promotion effort made by the chamber.

Along with displaying advertising materials sent in packets from American Express, the chamber included its own twist on the day: allowing home businesses space in storefront properties. This year, some beauty shops have offered to lend space to home business on Small Business Saturday rent-free.

The North Florida Regional Chamber of Commerce offers services to small cities with many small businesses, including Starke, Keystone, Lake Butler and Melrose.

In 2008, the Small Business Administration reported more than 2 million small businesses in Florida, composing 44 percent of the state’s private-sector employment.

Despite their large impact on the economy, small businesses have been suffering nationally. According to a report by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, small businesses are losing optimism regarding real sales gains.

“It’s difficult,” Whittle said. “Our immediate thought is, ‘I can’t find that there, I need to go to the mall or a larger area,’ but actually you can find it.”

The campaign allows small businesses to sign up through its website to be listed as a participating store from Nov. 21 to Dec. 1.

American Express cardholders also benefit from the campaign. Customers who swipe their cards at participating stores and spend more than $10 will earn a $10 statement credit.

Ilene Silverman’s store in Gainesville, Ilene’s For Fashion, participated in Small Business Saturday last November. After learning about the campaign through the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce, Silverman signed up, hoping to increase exposure. She had customers come in with their cards, ready to shop and earn benefits.

Silverman said that because small businesses can’t compete with big doorbusters, she tries to encourage holiday shopping in other ways, like offering complementary gift wrap and personal service to those shopping for gifts.

“This gives us another way to compete on Saturday and boost our visibility and shopping potential,” she said.

Silverman said she appreciates efforts made to help small businesses reel in customers after generally low sales on Black Friday.

Another small business owner in Gainesville, Cathleene Blagay of Thornebrook Chocolates, also found success through Small Business Saturday.

Black Friday is usually not a busy day for Thornebrook, Blagay said, but she is glad to see the support of the community in promoting small businesses during this time.

“We have seen an up kick in business — it hasn’t been enormous — but the attention to small businesses is what’s most important,” Blagay said.

About Joy King

Joy is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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