A day set aside annually to promote small businesses across the nation doesn’t seem to have many enthusiastic followers locally.
Small Business Saturday (SBS), a venture of the U.S. Small Business Administration, is scheduled for Nov. 25, but few of those businesses in Fulton County are planning to celebrate with special events. According to area chambers of commerce, the promotion is either unnecessary or held during a poorly-appointed time of year.
“The day after the day after Thanksgiving in our town is not a good shopping day,” said Archbold Chamber of Commerce Administrator Amy Krueger. “Small Business Saturday is really not a big shopping day here.”
She and small business owners in the village held a retailers’ meeting last spring to discuss holiday plans, “(but) we’re always focused in this office on shopping small and shopping local businesses,” she said. “They know their businesses well enough to know that Saturday is not a good shopping day in this area.”
And each year attendance for SBS is always affected by two more prominent events: the Ohio State-Michigan football game, held the same day, and The Night of Lights, a holiday tradition in Archbold held the previous evening. Krueger said both diminish any excitement for a promotional business day.
Of the village chamber’s 179 members, only three are making a special effort. The Scrapbook Korner, Party Expressions, and Videos Unlimited, all neighbors on South Defiance Street, will hold a joint “Holiday Open House” on Friday, Nov. 24, and Saturday, Nov. 25.
In Swanton, small businesses have made no specific plans for SBS other than promoting it on social media sites. Neil Toeppe, Swanton Area Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, said none of the organization’s 100-plus members have announced special plans.
“We promote ‘shop local’ on a regular basis, so this Small Business Saturday is apparently some sort of a national event or promotion. Apparently, the small business community hasn’t really embraced it – that’s what it seems to me,” he said.
Toeppe said the chamber promotes local small businesses on an ad hoc basis. He said over the past six months six new businesses – including Benfield Winery, Deals and Steals, and Mail Pouch Restaurant – have opened around Swanton, “so we’ve been doing a tremendous amount of promotion of those businesses.”
He senses that a national promotional event for small businesses is probably unnecessary.
“They try to advertise their businesses all year long. (SBS) seems to be, maybe, superfluous,” Toeppe said. “This isn’t to minimize the shop local promotion. Most of the businesses in Fulton County are small businesses, and they’re promoting their businesses all year long.”
He said businesses typically promote sales when business is low or inventory is high.
“For them to artificially try to promote because someone says this is the way to promote things doesn’t necessarily make a lot of sense to these businesses,” he said. “For them to just promote something because this is the day to promote it may not be beneficial to them.”
Eric Fessenden, owner of Fessenden Hardware on Airport Highway in Swanton, has no real plans for the national event but may put together a sale.
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” he said of SBS. “Something is better than trying nothing. I would think that that’s probably not the best Saturday to have it because of the Ohio State-Michigan game. For that three and a half hours we’re slow, and then (business) can pick up.“
The tepid response to SBS in Fulton County is not shared in other areas of the country, said Terry Sutherland, spokesperson for the U.S. Small Business Administration.
“Small Business Saturday is about supporting local businesses and creating jobs in communities all across America, ” he said. “Shopping small on this Saturday is the perfect opportunity for Americans to support their local community businesses and promote growth and vitality to America’s booming economy during the holiday season and throughout the coming year.”
Sutherland said this year marks the eighth SBS being held. He said on last year’s event day about 112 million Americans spent $15.4 million at independent neighborhood restaurants and retailers combined.
Bill Drummer, executive director of the 210-member Wauseon Chamber of Council, has fully supported SBS since his former days as owner of Bills Sports Center.
“I’m so ingrained in supporting local, and I do think there’s a percentage of local merchants that do do something, but how many I couldn’t tell you,” he said.
He will say, however, that holding it the Saturday following Thanksgiving could be detrimental, since consumers may be exhausted from Black Friday sales.
“I think it’s a great idea (but) I’m not sure the day is the best,” he Drummer said.
The Passion 4 Fashion Boutique on North Fulton Street in Wauseon appears to be an exception to the local rule. Owner Gloria Kuntz said, with one or two exceptions, the store’s merchandise will be 15 percent off. Kuntz requested and received an SBS kit from American Express that contains signage, tote bags, pens, and balloons for the promotion.
“For us, Small Business Saturday is bigger than Black Friday. Everybody’s thinking big box stores on Black Friday, so we’ve embraced Small Business Saturday because that’s when we have more traffic,” she said.
Her boutique has embraced the occasion the last three years. And though it’s not the store’s biggest event, “every year it’s gaining momentum,” she said.
“As a retailer you have to get on board with it and help promote it, and you have to market it. It’s probably not for everyone, but for a retailer like myself it should be,” Kuntz said. “We all want everyone to shop local and support the small businesses.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.