Shoppers participate in Small Business Saturday

November 24, 2012 4:58:43 PM PST
Black Friday is behind us, but there's a push to get you to buy your holiday gifts locally. Today is Small Business Saturday. Shop owners are hopeful that customers will skip the chaos of big retailers and instead check-off their holiday shopping lists by supporting their neighbors and putting money back into their community.

Across the Bay Area, stores are promoting the fact that they are local, and have that familiarity and customer service to boot. Shop owners hope that will bring in customers, even though they can't offer the deep discounts that a big box store can.

"We are ethnic Turkmen people in Northern Afghanistan," said Noor Khan, owner of Noor & Sons Rug Gallery in Berkeley. "We honestly price this for $5,000. At Macy's, they will mark this at $14,000 then knock off 80 percent just to grab people's attention.

Buying small can have far-reaching effects. Khan says the U.S.-based "Project Survivor" helped launch his local business, which commissions specialized rugs from his home village. He says it takes 45 days for three villagers to weave a rug.

Berkeley shop owner Randy Brewer, who owns a store called Convert begins the day prepping his Berkeley store for his customers and their families, knowing those small touches make a big difference, "We want people to invest back in their community, which is what we feel like they do when they shop small."

This is the store's second year participating in Small Business Saturday -- a nationwide effort started in 2010 to celebrate and support small businesses and all they do for their communities.

Just across Fourth Street, Ark Toys is part of the project for the first time and is offering an incentive for customers who spend locally, "You can get a free Thomas Train and eeBoo USA Map or a little EcoBear from Plan Toys," said Natalie Heyser with Ark Toys. "They're really cute, and it's good if you weren't thinking about an extra gift for somebody."

American Express is offering a $25 credit to cardholders who first register their card and then spend at least $25 at participating small business.

"And we're giving an extra 10 percent off to people, just as some incentive to shop here," Brewer said.

Some shoppers don't need that extra incentive, telling ABC7 they think every day should be a small business day, "I always shop locally," said Albany resident Kevin McCaffrey. "I think it's always good to shop locally. For the holidays, I will too."

Berkeley resident Nicole de Faymoreau adds, "It's good to have variety of shops and to meet quirky people and not to have people who have strict business regulations with how they interact with their clients.

"Small businesses are having a harder time," Brewer said. "Big box stores can go into a community, and they can destroy small businesses, so by putting back into us and into the community, you're helping the small mom and pop businesses survive."

With thousands of Bay Area shops and restaurants participating in this effort, there are just as many opportunities to help those businesses survive.

Last year an estimated 103 million Americans supported Small Business Saturday. 67 percent of people familiar with the initiative say they will participate and put their money on main street.


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