Smack dab between Black Friday bargains and Cyber Monday sales, shoppers can make a big impact during the 10th annual Small Business Saturday on Nov. 30 — by keeping it local. 

American Express launched Small Business Saturday in 2010 to draw attention to shopping on Main Street across the nation. Last year, the day brought in a record $17.8 billion in sales, according to research by Amex and the National Federation of Independent Business. Small businesses said 29 percent of their total annual sales occur during the holiday season, and 59 percent said Small Business Saturday is significant to their bottom lines.

“Small Business Saturday is a great way to reacquaint yourself with the Main Street shops that are closest to you and employ our neighbors, friends and relatives,” said Chad Heinrich, state director for the Arizona chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business. “For some shops, this is the time of year they really need to be profitable in order to carry on operating into next year.”

Some are more on top of the event than others.

“It reinforces the idea that shopping small benefits our community, so that’s why I’m an advocate for it,” said Patti Sherman, manager at Nancy Pantz at Continental Shopping Plaza. She’ll have a Small Business Saturday sign displayed in her shop window.

"It's important to get the experience of a store like ours," said Sherman, who was busy stocking shelves recently with sales associate Kay Sobol. "You get that great customer service as well as you can see the quality and the fit of the product you are getting."

And they do gift wrapping.

“We have nothing for the guys, but they can certainly buy for the wonderful ladies in their lives,” she said, adding they'd be glad to steer men in the right direction.

While Small Business Saturday in Green Valley is on most business' radar, Sherman would like to see a merchants association or some other business advocacy group bring more awareness to the local shopping bandwagon.

A little push

The management at Continental Shopping Plaza didn’t have plans for a special event during Small Business Saturday. The Sahuarita Town Council passed a resolution touting the importance of shopping local on Nov. 12. And the Green Valley/Sahuarita Chamber of Commerce said it was emailing an activities guide newsletter to its members promoting local merchants, and encouraging support of businesses during the holidays, but the chamber wasn’t planning a dedicated event.

Chamber President and CEO Randy Graf said an ongoing goal year-round for the chamber is to keep retail bucks in the local economy.

“We don’t want to bleed those dollars and sales tax receipts into big-box stores in Tucson and the Internet," he said.

The boost of seasonal visitors who may frequent Green Valley Village shopping center on Small Business Saturday and the rest of the holiday season should find eager retailers ready to sell, said Laura Wesner, events and advertising director.

“We’re hoping that people do take advantage of any deals or sales on merchandise, or perhaps buy gift cards," she said.

“When all the snowbirds come back, it’s noticeably a big deal for our tenants,” both for the professional and personal services firms as well as the mix of independent retailers and four eateries that do business at the shopping complex, she said.

To optimize the holiday rush, Green Valley Village will host a Christmas Spectacular on Dec. 13. Expect strolling carolers from Sahuarita Intermediate School, a tree lighting ceremony at 5:45 p.m., gift card raffle from participating merchants and luminarias lighting up the property.

Over at the Shoppes at La Posada, a lot of folks come for the coffee and conversation at one of the area’s premier social hubs, but some also find time to scope out the trove of items for sale at Vensel Treasure Shoppe.

Store manager Ellie Barber likes that Small Business Saturday’s aim is to get people away from the big-box and chain stores for a day.

Vensel, a resale shop, stocks holiday-themed gifts, such as table-top Christmas trees made out of felt and wool. Barber said the location becomes a “one stop shop” for a lot of customers post-Thanksgiving, with housewares and collapsible pet bowls being popular choices this year. She also suggests gourmet jellies and jams and ornaments as “quick little hostess gifts.”

Not to be outdone, some merchants are branching out this year. While best known as a nursery, Native Gardens of Green Valley, in addition to selling a ton of Christmas cactuses, poinsettia and chili ristras, the business has opened a gift shop to stoke the bottom line, owner Harry March said. The new space includes handcrafted Indian rugs and pottery, jewelry and cards. Quite a few Fair Trade items are on offer, he said.

“It’s good to get away from the mass-produced kind of stuff,” he said.

Regarding Small Business Saturday, March said, “it's really a nice way to celebrate the businesses that make Green Valley feel like home.”

It can also make a difference to the bottom line.

Fewer days 

Because Thanksgiving falls near the end of the month, the holiday shopping season is a week shorter this year, meaning that longer hours and staffing up may be on tap for some small merchants to make bank. Four weekends between the holidays does make a difference, said Sue Simmons, owner of Sue’s Creative Coyote at Continental Shopping Plaza, a heavily trafficked shopping center in the area. The specialty gift store stays busy after Christmas right through spring as locals and visitors indulge in retail therapy.

“But holiday sales are real positive” to the bottom line, she said.

To keep the shop small buzz going from Black Friday through Jan. 1, non-profit Local First Arizona is celebrating Buy Local Month, the  nonprofit group’s annual campaign to remind holiday shoppers about the impact of their spending and the importance of supporting local businesses throughout the holiday season. 

Local First Founder Kimber Lanning said the statewide organization advocates for supporting Arizona owned and operated businesses of all sizes, ranging from the neighborhood barber to grocery stores to movie theaters.  

Lanning said her organization has been touting its own holiday shopping campaign called Buy Local Month for 15 years and the website localfirstaz.com has a directory of more than 3,000 certified businesses. 

Local First encourages consumers to pledge to shift 10 percent of the money they spend from national chains to independent businesses. 

Based on a Local First study, that 10 percent shift would see $130 million more circulating in the Tucson metro area economy, and create1,600 new jobs.

While November and December holiday shopping is essential to small retailers' survival, Arizona merchants need year-round shoppers, according to Lanning.

"They have to be busy all year to make it work."

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