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Small businesses hope for boost in sales this weekend

Many are relying on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday to stay afloat during an already difficult year for sales.

MARIETTA, Ga. — This Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, local stores are depending on holiday shoppers to stay afloat after a challenging year for sales.

This year, Bookmiser - a family-owned Marietta bookstore - had to think differently about how to target customers after experiencing a 50 percent decrease in sales due to COVID-19.

"We continue to hope that maybe next month's things will get back to normal - or next month," said co-owner Annell Gerson. "Well, the reality is, it's almost a  year later and it's hard to recoup that."

The bookstore, which has been open since 1998, started offering curbside pickup and began working with a distributor to shift some sales online.

A study by American Express, which created Small Business Saturday 10 years ago to promote shopping small and local in the midst of the recession, found that 92 percent of owners, like Gerson, adapted in order to stay open.

"I think it's difficult to know our future," said Gerson. "Certainly, we need people to continue to walk in the door for us to stay here. If they value what a bookstore does to their community, I hope they will walk in, instead of hitting that buy button."

According to the study, 64 percent of business owners feel this Saturday is more important than ever. In 2019, about 110 million people in the United States participated in Small Business Saturday, spending a record high of $19.6 billion.

"One customer for us, especially when you have a lot of loyal customers who keep you alive, it makes a difference," said Gerson. "Every person matters."

Gerson's bookstore, known for local author readings and book clubs, tends to see a lot of families with children and the elderly: groups of people who have stayed home during the pandemic.

Credit: WXIA

She said that, seven years ago, about 22 bookstores closed in a 10-mile radius near Bookmiser and she hopes that, with ongoing support, her bookstore won't be next.

"This year we're doing our coupons and we do have lots of books autographed by local authors but they're not here in person," she said. "We're also offering a wishlist if you want to fill it out."

While, according to Yelp, almost 100,000 businesses around the nation have permanently closed, some online businesses like Culture Greetings have flourished.

The online-based greeting card company, which prints and mails personalized cards to any recipient, saw a 200 percent boom in sales this year. 

The business model allows you to choose a culturally relevant greeting card and pick from different fonts to use as your text inside the card.

Credit: WXIA

"As an African-American, as a woman of color, when we walk down the greeting card aisle, we don't always feel represented," said founder Dionne Mahaffey. 

She said this year's racial unrest led people to want to support woman-led black-owned businesses like hers. She also credits the pandemic for part of this success.

"Just a short walk to the mailbox to get mail was exciting," she said. "We saw people sending cards to the elderly, unfortunately, there was an uptick in sympathy card sales."

This comes at a time when black-owned businesses have been closing at twice the rate of others, according to the Federal Reserve. 

That's why Mahaffey's company is also part of Facebook's #BuyBlack Friday campaign, encouraging shoppers to support black small business owners like her.

Both Bookmiser and Culture Greetings are offering coupons and deals in the next few days.

For a list of other small businesses in your area, click here.