Black Friday and, increasingly, Thanksgiving night are for big-box retailers with thousands of stores, but Theresa Mitchell says Saturday is the day for businesses like hers.
Mitchell and her mother, Jan Stewart, own The Bath Cottage, a 36-year-old bed and bath retailer in Cocoa, Fla.
"Small business is something that Americans are losing sight of with Internet buying and big box stores," Mitchell said. "Some people are forgetting that small businesses are very much a part of their community."
This Saturday is Small Business Saturday, a day set aside since 2010 between Black Friday and Cyber Monday to encourage shoppers to spend their holiday money at local mom-and-pop stores on clothing, jewelry, toys, accessories and other merchandise.
Tramarea Adams' clothing store, Golden Glam Boutique in Jackson, Miss., doesn't have a million-dollar advertising budget. But like the Macy's and JCPenney stores across the USA, it needs a steady stream of customers.
Golden Glam opened about a year ago, so this is Adams' first chance to promote her store through Small Business Saturday. Her Heels, Ties and Toys event will spotlight not only her store's clothing but also serve as a toy drive for a local shelter for abused women and children.
"This year, a lot of people have committed to shopping with us," she said. Golden Glam is opening an hour earlier than usual.
More than 9 in 10 small-business owners nationally give back to their communities in some way, be it working with nonprofits, coaching youth sports teams or holding public office, said Ron Aldridge, Mississippi director of the nonprofit nonpartisan National Federation of Independent Business.
In Springfield, Mo., 5 Pound Apparel gives back by selling only items that help a charitable cause. It doesn't eschew Black Friday - the store had a line stretching down the block before it opened at 6 a.m. CT Friday - but Bryan Simpson, owner of the clothing retailer, said he has different strategies for each day's customers.
American Express, which started Small Business Saturday in part to help small retailers during the economic downturn; the NFIB; and the federal Small Business Administration estimate that nearly 70 million customers spent $5.5 billion nationwide last year at small, independent stores during the event.
"It's the buying-local concept, that personalized service, that circle of money that stays more in the community," Aldridge said. "You're helping take care of your friends that you know in the community."
Before the recession, a small-scale study in the Chicago neighborhood of Andersonville found that more than two-thirds of the money customers spent with local companies remained in the Chicago economy; 57 cents of every dollar spent at chain stores left the Chicago area, according to Civic Economics, economic development consultants with offices in Chicago and Austin.
Nationally, market share for local retailers vs. national chains declined from 59% in 1990 to 48% in 2009, according to another Civic Economics study. For bars and restaurants, local market share dipped to 64% from 71%.
Local businesses provide "jobs for our residents and members of our community," said shopper Kristi Hilliard of Macon, Ga., who says she always tries to support retailers in her area because of the personalized service and the boost to central Georgia's economy. "If those businesses close, then those people would lose their jobs."
A cluster of small businesses on the courthouse square is the economic foundation of historic Canton, Miss., a city of about 13,000 people north of Jackson, Miss. Small Business Saturday is Day 2 of the city's three-day Merchants Open House; participating busineses are staying open extra hours and offering robust discounts.
"We're a small, family-owned business that's been here for 65 years," said Alice Jean Hawkins, co-owner of Noble-Watts Jewelers & Gifts. "So many of the stores on the square are family owned and operated, so it's an important day for a lot of us." More than three dozen of the city's businesses are participating.
The National Federation of Independent Business said more than 350 retailers across the USA have registered at its website as participants. American Express is offering a $10 statement credit, down from $25 last year, to cardholders who register at its website and shop at participating retailers. Thousands of businesses have registered at the American Express site; both sites have maps of participating shops, restaurants and service providers.
The movement has gained momentum through the use of social media, and in this fourth year businesses and shoppers are being encouraged to tweet using the hashtags #SmallBizSat and #ShopSmall. On Facebook, the Small Business Saturday page now has 3.3 million likes. Customers using Foursquare, the location-based mobile service, to check in at businesses receive recommendations for nearby participating shops and restaurants.
Though a credit-card company started Small Business Saturday, Aldridge said shoppers can help their local businesses more if they use cash or a personal check. Debit and credit cards generate fees that businesses have to pay from the proceeds of a sale, and those fees generally go out of state.
Lisa Curatolo, who owns The Goat Boy gift shop in Owego, N.Y., said the day has had a positive effect on her business in years past.
"Even though it is one day, there's a pour-over for weeks from that," she said. "For a community to really survive and do well, we need all the businesses to do well. So we really need to raise awareness of every business that's down here."