Big box stores may entice Black Friday shoppers with flash-in-the-pan deals, but local retailers remind consumers that Small Business Saturday on Nov. 30 will offer what the larger establishments lack.
Archbold Chamber of Commerce Director Rhonda Leininger said many people are resigned to driving miles to look for offers or services they can find of commensurate worth just around the corner.
“The importance of Small Business Saturday is being able to support our hometown and keeping the downtown area alive and well,” she said.
Leininger said distinct advantages to local shopping include proximity and extra care with customer service.
“If there’s a problem, you’re only minutes away,” she said. “The customer service in a small town like this is really pretty outstanding. The local merchants are readily available, and customer service is the utmost to them. That keeps people coming back.”
Small Business Saturday can be hit or miss for Pennycrest Floral and More, 220 Defiance St., in Archbold. Floral manager Jodi Repp has advertised specials on the shop’s Facebook page, but knows people are choosing larger venues for Black Friday sales.
“They go to the city, and we’re trying to keep them shopping local,” she said. “It’s very important to keep the mom and pop places open.”
What separates Pennycrest Floral and More from big box stores is a full-time engraver who can more quickly and conveniently customize gifts, Repp said. In fact, the shop is no longer struggling as much against the larger retailers because it can offer that kind of customer service.
“It’s more one-on-one. We’re able to attend to their needs better,” she said of customers. “Archbold is such a close-knit community, I think they would like to shop local as much as they can.”
At You-nique Bou-tique, 117 N. Main St., in Swanton, sales usually triple on Small Business Saturday as compared to a usual weekend. Manager Joyce Berry said the business, which sells women’s fashions, gift items, and jewelry, hits hard with advertising on its Facebook page. She said regular customers will often bring in friends unfamiliar with the store for the occasion.
“Hopefully, that translates into them becoming a regular customer. It’s a big day for us,” she said.
Berry noted that supporting local retailers isn’t just good for their profit margins.
“It keeps the mom and pop stores economically sound, and that keeps their financial dollars in their own community,” she said. “It builds the tax base in their community, which takes some of that burden off the taxpayers. If they support the community’s small businesses, those businesses are going to stay in their community.”
And the large chains can’t compete with the store’s unique offerings, Berry said. “I think (customers) can appreciate the fact that they can come here and find things they can’t find at the big box stores. We hear them comment about that,” she said.
The service is also far better, Berry said.
“We get to know our customers. My customers become my friends. You’re not just Jane Doe walking in the door,” she said. “We form a friendship, a bond. So, of course, over time that’s going to translate to better customer service.”
Neil Toeppe, president and CEO of the Swanton Chamber of Commerce, said Small Business Saturday is vital to the continued success of small town retailers.
“It’s important even moreso to Swanton because we have six new businesses on Main Street this year,” he said. “They need this shopping season to help sustain them for the rest of the year.”
People who grow to rely on big box retailers don’t always consider the advantages of shopping locally, Toeppe added.
“With all small businesses you’re dealing with the owner. They know that word-of-mouth is critical to the success of their business, so you’re going to get much better service,” he said.
Persons looking for unique items are more likely to find them in local shops than in the uniform stock of chain stores, Toeppe said. And local products can be more readily customized.
Local business owners also know their customers better, and can cede more quickly to their demands, he said. “When you walk into one of these small retailers in a small town, you are most likely going to be greeted by somebody who knows the community.”
And while small businesses can’t always compete with the prices of larger retailers, “the cost of gas driving to Toledo neutralizes the difference in prices,” Toeppe said.
All About Health Store, at 1242 N. Shoop Ave. in Wauseon, will offer a sale Saturday on diffusers which are used in aromatherapy. Owner Caroline Richer said she’s promoted the sale on Facebook and in a newsletter.
She said Small Business Saturday promoted local business, “and us little guys don’t get a lot of coverage otherwise.”
Richer said clientele spread across northwest Ohio, southern Michigan, and eastern Indiana keep coming back due to the store’s quality products and customer service.
“Our biggest plus is our service. You can come in here and ask any of our staff questions and they are very, very knowledgeable,” she said. “At big box stores you may have a hard time even finding someone to ask, let alone someone who can tell you about the product.”
As for quality items, “You aren’t going to find the quality in a big box store like you would here,” Richer said. “We look at the quality as number one importance. It’s something that we give our own family, so we try to treat our customers like family and give them what we would want for our own family.”
Some local business owners have commented that the rush of Black Friday has lost some of its luster, according to Bill Drummer, executive director of the Wauseon Chamber of Commerce. “Some of that shopping exhaustion has gone by the wayside,” he said.
Drummer said the attraction of small businesses can be summed up in one word: service. He said big box stores don’t have either the time or inclination to properly teach their employees about the products they sell.
“You don’t get the help or expertise the small business can give you,” he said. “The small businesses educate people on what they need.”
Small town businesses also support the community they serve, Drummer said. “The money the customer spends comes back to the community.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.