Locally owned Delaware stores prepare for Small Business Saturday

While many large retailers and eager shoppers prepare for door buster Black Friday deals, local shops are gearing up for a new shopping trend, Small Business Saturday.

The idea has taken off over the last few years, gaining support from the national Small Business Administration and American Express as a way to get customers to do some of their holiday shopping at neighborhood stores.

“It’s a busy weekend, people are out shopping and I think it helps remind consumers to support the local businesses that create jobs in their communities that boost the economy in the communities and help preserve some of the neighborhoods in those communities,” said Tony Leta, district director of the Small Business Administration’s Delaware district.

Across Delaware, many local stores are preparing for their first Small Business Saturday event.

In downtown Wilmington, Nina Thorpe, owner of the newly opened Milan4Ever children’s clothing store is offering a 15 percent discount on any second item purchase and extending her store hours on Saturday to gain customers.

“We’re going to stay open as long as we need to on Saturday,” she said. “I hope people come and find out more about my store as well as the other stores here in this area. I hope it’s a place where they want to come back and it draws more regular customers to the area.”

At neighboring Isabella G. Fine Accessories and Apparel, owner Susie Grimes is also offering discounts on her women’s clothing, jewelry, handbags and small gifts in honor of the shopping weekend.

“In addition to my already reasonably priced merchandise, I do offer tier discounts; 20 percent off $250, 25 percent off $300 and 30 percent off $500,” said Grimes.

At the Delaware Running Company, Small Business Saturday is more about showing customers exceptional customer service that they might not receive during the holiday shopping rush.

“Our business and what we do here is specifically meant to give customers a personalized experience and people really enjoy it,” said Steve Sinko, manager of the Newark location. “A lot of our customers come in because of referrals and obviously being a small business, we want to stay in the community and we want to give back to the community by being able to provide a good service. Sometimes you don’t see that at the large, big box stores.”

Joyce Breasure-Herrick, owner of For Dreams Gallery in Dover, agrees that good customer service and a pleasant shopping experience equals repeat business.

This year will be Breasure-Herrick’s second Small Business Saturday, and she plans to load up on homemade cookies, candies and other food items for shoppers to sample in the store.

“We’re a very small store that’s all USA made so we take great pride in talking to our customers and letting them know about our artists,” said Breasure-Herrick. “We’re hoping to see a lot of our regular customers and also hoping to see a lot of new people. Small business Saturday gives people an opportunity to look at stores that they might not otherwise consider.”

Breasure-Herrick added that shopping locally has huge economic benefits for not only the store but also the community.

“The dollar stays here, especially in my store since everything is USA made,” she said. “The dollar really stays in the USA and it gives opportunities for jobs in the area for both my staff and my artisans. It’s a way of making a community more dynamic.”

Leta added two out of every three new jobs in America come from small businesses and over half of the people employed in the country work in a small business or own a small business.

“There’s a lot of jobs at stake,” said Leta. “If people support small business, particularly when people are shopping for the holidays, they’re helping to keep people employed in the community.”

In Rehoboth Beach, many local shops along the boardwalk are coming together as a community to support Small Business Saturday.

With visitors in town for the holiday, Gale Smith, manager at Tiger Lili boutique, said they have big business expectations.  “Because it’s Thanksgiving, we think people will want to get out of the house, walk on the beach and go shopping,” she said.

While many Delaware businesses embrace the new trend, Leta said last year’s numbers show that customers are happy to shop local.

“Last year, 103 million Americans shopped at small businesses and half a million businesses leveraged an online tool for Small Business Saturday,” said Leta. “I think we’re going to see more growth throughout the country.” 

Earlier this week, Delaware Congressman John Carney visited the Delaware Running Company store on Main Street in Newark to talk with business leaders about the benefits of supporting local businesses.

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