Small Business Saturday promotes shopping locally

ccope@thestate.comNovember 24, 2012 

Local retailers will compete with national chains as they kick off Small Business Saturday – the same day as the Carolina-Clemson football game. And the stakes for small shop owners are just as high.

The emphasis on supporting small businesses – a day after shoppers line up at malls and national retailers for the Black Friday beginning of the holiday shopping season – will impact local economies across the state from Gamecock Country to Tigertown.

Money spent at locally owned shops ripples through the economy, with $68 of every $100 dollars spent staying in the community, compared with $43 of every $100 dollars spent at a national chain, according to Shop Columbia, an initiative by the City of Columbia and supporter of Small Business Saturday.

Support for Small Business Saturday, now in its third year, is growing with about 67 percent of consumers familiar with the initiative planning to participate, up from 44 percent last year, according to a survey from the National Federation of Independent Business and American Express. Of those consumers who shopped last year, 70 percent plan to spend more or the same amount this year – an average of about $100 – the survey said.

This year, even the City of Columbia is getting in on the shop local push, announcing this week a new website for Shop Columbia (www.mygovhelp.info/shopcolumbiasc ), which offers a directory of local businesses, as well as coupons, job listings and other information about area stores.

One Columbia small business in the directory, Big Thursday, capitalizes on the USC-Clemson rivalry being held the same weekend as the biggest shopping day of the year. Big Thursday sells collegiate merchandise for the two teams and has locations in Lexington and the Village at Sandhill.

The store competes against big box stores that carry collegiate apparel and gift items by stocking unique inventory national chains may not sell, said Jennifer Davis, store manager at the Sandhill location.

Both locations will be open on Saturday but offered a doorbuster deal Friday because a lot of customers will be at the game today, she said.

Shopping locally should be a no-brainer with the Carolina-Clemson game happening on the same day as Small Business Saturday, experts say.

The rivalry game will have the highest attendance and greatest impact on Clemson area businesses of the other seven home games throughout the season, said Bobby McCormick, economics professor emeritus at Clemson University.

“It’s big business for Small Business Saturday because of college football in this part of the state,” McCormick said.

A significant number of small businesses in the three-county area including Pickens, Oconee and Greenville would have difficulty surviving without the economic impact of Clemson football, McCormick said.

Last year, the game was in Columbia on Small Business Saturday and Uptown on Main, which sells personalized gifts, had a book signing focused on the rivalry game.

This year, the 7 p.m. kickoff time will benefit the shop so people can shop during the day.

“Night games are good for me,” said Martha Studstill, owner of Uptown on Main.

The weekend traditionally kicks off the shopping season as retailers offer big discounts and special sales to attract customers. Holiday spending can account for as much as 40 percent of a businesses’ revenue for the year.

“It’s really like a switch gets turned on on Thanksgiving day,” Studstill said.

Despite economic uncertainty the past few years, she has seen an increase in shopping every year. However, this year she is worried the fiscal cliff – a combination of expiring tax credits and $1.2 trillion in federal budget cuts that could kick in if Congress does not reach a deal – may impact people’s purchasing decisions.

Small businesses don’t have the cash flow they did before the recession and face obstacles like getting a loan and buying extra equipment and inventory, said Ben Homeyer, the state director for the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

Promoting small business shopping is important in South Carolina because a majority of businesses are considered small, Homeyer said.

“It’s not just the Boeings of the world out there that drive South Carolina,” Homeyer said.

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