Brattleboro embraces Small Business Saturday
BRATTLEBORO >> Small, independent and mostly family-owned businesses aren't always the first choice among consumers but their stores get the spotlight on Small Business Saturday.
"I think what it does is focus people on that as opposed to, 'Hey I'm going to a big box store.' It's, 'Let's remember there's these small businesses that offer a lot for us during the holiday season,'" said Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kate O'Connor. "Let's try to support what we have here."
Small Business Saturday always falls on the weekend following Thanksgiving and Black Friday, the day known for discounts so deep that customers go crazed and riots can ensue. Before Cyber Monday when mouse clicks or device taps secure online purchases, Small Business Saturday sees shoppers visiting local participating shops around the United States.
And Brattleboro is no different.
"They all knew when it was," O'Connor said of merchants who met earlier this month. "It's on everyone's radar. It's something they all look forward to."
American Express launched Small Business Saturday back in 2010 as a way to encourage and promote local businesses, becoming "official" the following year when local to federal officials everywhere embraced it.
In 2012, 73.9 million people went out and shopped at local stores that day, according to American Express. Over 1,450 people rallied their communities in support of the cause the next year. Last year, an estimated $14.3 billion was spent at small independent businesses on Small Business Saturday.
In October, the Brattleboro Selectboard signed a proclamation in support of the day.
"That Friday, Saturday and Sunday here are pretty busy in general," Beadniks owner Brian Robertshaw said. "But Saturdays tend to be busier for us, at least this Saturday, so there is an element to the Small Business Saturday that tends to send people in."
While Beaniks won't offer anything "huge" for customers that day in terms of deals or discounts, Robertshaw said his family-operated business will try to keep their prices competitive as best they can.
"Competing with big box stores is almost impossible. They buy such a larger quantity and get a better price point," he said. "There's so many costs incurred for small businesses from rent to payroll to cost of goods, it's kind of tough."
People not having as much expendable income and an increase in competition between big box and smaller stores were cited as reasons behind the last four years being "pretty much the toughest" in Beadniks' 24-year history. But bringing customers into the Main Street shop in Brattleboro are materials allowing them to create their own Christmas gifts.
"It's always kind of cheaper to do it yourself," said Robertshaw, who along with staff will be assisting with gift making and other selections all day Saturday and throughout December, a busier time of year for the store. "We got our holiday cheer on and we're fully stocked."
In The Moment Records can be found just a few doors down.
"It's a very good weekend," said owner Byron Greatorex.
Friday sees a smaller version of Record Store Day, which happens in April. Special vinyl releases bring customers to the store on both days.
"It's not normally as much of a madhouse," Greatorex noted while comparing the two annual events. "I probably brought in somewhere around 40 or 50 titles and then multiple copies of most of them. There's definitely some good stuff. We're opening an hour early."
In the middle of a remodel, Greatorex has not put any holiday promotions together at In The Moment. But that shouldn't affect sales.
Brattleboro was pretty vibrant for this weekend over the last couple years, Greatorex told the Reformer.
"I've been pretty impressed with the people out shopping," he said, acknowledging that many of the people who end up strolling through his shop on Black Friday are not aware of Record Store Day but the day is usually second best to the April Record Store Day in terms of sales. "I got the feeling people would be going out to Target or Walmart but I've been happy with the turnout."
Saturday may have smaller amounts of sales than Friday but the record store tends to see a "huge uptick" from the previous four to five weeks, said Greatorex, who has noticed "a little bit of a dead zone" occurring between leaf peeping season and Black Friday weekend.
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