Even as Black Friday has expanded into the week before Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday deals are teased ahead of the holiday, Small Business Saturday has grown in prominence, thanks to advocates of shopping locally and to the Small Business Administration.
“As our economy continues to stabilize, it’s more important than ever that consumers shop and dine small during the holiday shopping season,” SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman said in a recent news release. “We continue to see positive impacts and opportunities for our small business owners through President Biden’s economic agenda, and Small Business Saturday is another chance for us to further strengthen America’s entrepreneurs with our local and online spending and promotion.”
Small Business Saturday, founded by American Express in 2010 and officially co-sponsored by the SBA since 2011, encourages holiday shoppers to patronize retailers and hospitality businesses in their own communities. According to American Express, last year about 51 million shoppers in the U.S. spent more than $23 billion during Small Business Saturday. That's up from $19.6 billion in 2019.
Meadowlark, a purveyor of women’s clothing, accessories and gifts at The Forum, was already seeing increased traffic early in the week.
“They turn out all week, I think because Small Business Saturday is mixed in with Black Friday and Cyber Monday,” Kendall Hurt, owner of the boutique, said Tuesday about her customers. “It’s a big shopping weekend, although I don’t know what percentage of the public knows about Small Business Saturday.”
Hurt attributes heavier shopper volume to the fact that many people are off work all this week. She’s grateful for the increased traffic in her store after what she describes as a somewhat challenging fall.
Some Meadowlark customers come looking for more than holiday gifts.
“They want to add some pieces to their fall wardrobe, and while they are here, they may pick up some gifts. Or while they’re here for gifts, they may purchase something for themselves,” Hurt said. “I had a customer yesterday who did that: she paid for two different transactions with two credit cards.”
Port City Pottery and Fine Crafts in downtown Wilmington’s Cotton Exchange expects the Thanksgiving weekend to be “pretty big,” according to YiFenn Strickland, an owner of the store.
“A lot of our customers support local, especially since we’re a cooperative and we sell local, handmade items,” Strickland said. “Our things are distinctive and our gallery is ever-changing.”
Sales at Port City Pottery have been steady, even through the months of construction along Front Street, Strickland said, but she and her fellow owners are expecting even better sales this weekend.
“Thanks to the community, we’ve been here 16 years and we are still around,” she said.
Local event producer Cool Wilmington is planning a celebration of Small Business Saturday. The organization’s Really Cool Holiday Market takes place on Dock Street between Second and Water streets from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
Local vendors will offer a variety of goods, including ornaments, candles, jewelry and jewelry boxes, pillows, hats, purses and skin care products in a “fun, party-like atmosphere,” according to a news release. “Visitors are encouraged to explore and experience the many small neighborhood businesses and restaurants located around the downtown Wilmington area.”
Wilmington Saxophone Quartet will perform live instrumental holiday music on one block. A DJ will play and sell vinyl records on another block. Entertainment also will include games, face painting and surprises for adults.
Admission is free and the event takes place rain or shine.