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WNPR’s small business coverage elevates understanding of the challenges faced by small business, educates policy-makers, and highlights the vital role of small business to the state’s economy.

Small Business Saturday Hopes For Big Gains

http://cptv.vo.llnwd.net/o2/ypmwebcontent/Chion/hj%20111122%20sb%20small%20biz%20sat%20CORR.mp3

Black Friday is an established Holiday tradition, as we work off the turkey with a visit to the mall. But small, local retailers often get left out of the spending spree. The relatively new concept of Small Business Saturday is an attempt to put that right. WNPR’s Harriet Jones has the story.

Charge card giant American Express began the Small Business Saturday campaign in 2010. One year on, the concept has expanded.

New TV ads mean that more people are aware of the push to shop local on the day after Black Friday. AmEx is boosting the promotion by offering its card holders a $25 credit if they spend $25 in a local store this Saturday.

“I think it’s a correction in that way that it promotes local. Live local, give local, buy local – it’s very important.”

Christine Chesanek has owned Fromage Fine Foods in Old Saybrook for 19 years. The holidays are always an important time for her business.

“My store offers about 200 different cheeses, sliced meats, charcuterie, olives, oils and vinegars – I do custom cheese platters and gift baskets, grab bags, hostess gifts and presents.”

She was an early adopter of the Small Business Saturday concept and took part last year.

“I thought it was wonderful, but there was a lot of fine print and we didn’t quite understand what it was last year.I think this year there’s a bigger promotion, it came out earlier to us in October. It offered us a website to go to in order to get free promotional cards and stickers for our windows to advertise nice and early. I think this year is exceptionally better.”

Some of the store’s customers confessed they remain in the dark….

"No, it’s nothing I’ve heard of. I’m surprised I haven’t heard it, but I have not."

But others like Philip Putnam of Essex have seen the light.

"Well, I’ve seen some advertisements for it, and I think I understand the concept – makes sense – I think it’s a good idea."

Jaime Burgess lives in Haddam – she has hopes that the initiative will bring more people onto Main Street.

“I think a lot of people get overwhelmed by Black Friday, where small business Saturday is a lot more impactful for local markets. I think for many people it might encourage them to think about it, but I’ve always shopped local.”

Of course, buy local campaigns didn’t start with Small Business Saturday. The Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut launched its Buy Local campaign in 2008. Tony Sheridan is President of the Chamber – he says that campaigns like Small Business Saturday are up against very tough online competition.

“I think you’re going to do your shopping when you’re having a sleepless night on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday – I think you’re going to see the Internet be dominant in the long run.”

Because of that he says, it’s even more crucial that chambers and other organizations continue to spotlight small businesses as a vital resource.

“The people who have bricks and mortar in the community, they’re the ones who pay for our police, our fire, our schools our libraries, so we have a vested interest in terms of the quality of life in the region to support those people.”

Last year, American Express says Small Business Saturday boosted sales in participating stores by 28%. This year, they’re hoping that the more comprehensive campaign will establish the day as a new post-Thanksgiving tradition.

For WNPR, I'm Harriet Jones.