Small-business owners hoping to see green from holiday shopping
Nov 24, 2012 (Menafn - The Modesto Bee - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --While consumers packed the mall and big-box stores Friday, local small-business owners prepared for their opportunity to shine.
Today is Small Business Saturday, the annual "shop local" day designed to promote smaller stores that offer their own holiday season specials and shopping experience. About a dozen businesses in downtown Modesto are participating this year. So are retail stores in McHenry Village and in old-style business districts in Stanislaus County.
Susie Fagundes, co-owner of Intrinsic Elements on J Street in Modesto, said Small Business Saturday has given the shop a boost. The 1,400-square-foot store, which sells an eclectic mix of gifts, jewelry and homeopathic items, competes in an era when large retailers have almost 100 times more space and when large numbers of consumers buy online from home.
"Last year, I had five women who said they came in for Small BusinessSaturday," Fagundes said. "Anytime I can get five new customers without spending money is wonderful."
Fagundes said she was pleased that downtown businesses were uniting behind the movement, which was launched in 2010 in a collaboration between American Express and the National Federation of Independent Business.
Participating businesses are rolling out special promotions. In addition, American Express gives a 25 credit for members who register their cards and then make purchases with them at qualifying small businesses.
"We feel it's really important for people to realize we are here," said Ruth Merritt, owner of Fleur De Lys Country Living, a home accessories store on 16th Street. "We have some really great businesses downtown."
This year, the average holiday shopper will spend about 751 on gifts, decorations and other holiday purchases, according to the National Retail Federation. How much of that will wind up in the pockets of small-business owners is hard to say. The NRF doesn't track sales specifically to small retailers, but notes that 95 percent of the nation's retailers are independent companies with one location.
With the start of the holiday shopping frenzy, retailers are getting mixed messages about consumer spending, coupled with uncertainty about new taxes, health care mandates and other economic realities that has made them skittish about 2013.
"In addition to holiday music wafting through the air, we're hearing the ringing of uncertainty in California," said John Kabateck, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business. "Whether it's a bookstore, auto shop or restaurant, they're still very uncertain about how many customers will come through the door."
Nancy Gonsalves of Twain Harte said she makes a point of supporting small businesses with her holiday purchases after watching the demise of independent merchants in her hometown of Gustine. On Black Friday, she traveled to Modesto, where she spent time with family members patronizing the shops at McHenry Village.
"I buy ornaments and get my rooster calendar here every year," said Gonsalves, admiring the Christmas decor at Mulberry Lane. The shop had an after-Thanksgiving discount on ornaments and gets involved with "shop local" day.
Store owner Chandra Cunha said, "it's been good for us so far." She finds that more customers are aware of the small-business day squeezed between Black Friday and Cyber Monday's online shopping kickoff, although not everyone understands all of the details.
American Express gives its cardholders an incentive for shopping today at participating stores. According to a letter to merchants, card members who register at ShopSmall.com get a 25 credit on their statements when they use the card to spend 25 or more in a single transaction at a qualifying small business.
It's a one-time-only deal, and cardholders can expect to see the 25 credit on their statements within eight weeks. The letter said the registration period started Nov. 18 and "continues while supplies last" until 11:59 tonight.
With or without an incentive, Diana Opela-Postma said she preferred the quieter shopping experience at The Dented Chef, a housewares store on 13th Street in Modesto. "If I am looking for something I need, I come to this store," she said. "She has everything, and if she doesn't have it today, she can get it."
Owner Judi Rackley said she planned a bag sale for Small Business Saturday. Whatever regular-priced items customers can put in a grocery bag are discounted 20 percent.
Jewelry artist Nancy Dinant and David Cameron popped into Intrinsic Elements on Friday, where the sales staff was serving warm cider to customers. Dinant bought a hope rock for a friend in the hospital -- not an item easy to find in a large outlet. "It's my first time here," Cameron said. "I like to support small businesses when I can."
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2321.
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