Written by The Business Journal Staff
As shoppers hit the Black Friday sales today, small businesses throughout Fresno County are prepping their stores for the rest of the holiday season.
According to the Better Business Bureau, this year’s Small Business Saturday on Nov. 26 is projected to be the biggest since the shopping day started in 2010. In 2015, 95 million people shopped at small businesses on Small Business Saturday, an 8percent increase from 2014, and in 2016 these numbers are set to increase again, with estimated sales totaling $17.8 billion — 10 percent more than sales in 2015.
Shoppers surveyed by the BBB cite two main reasons for this increase — a desire to support their local economy (59 percent) and the opportunity to buy one-of-kind gifts (54 percent).
According to the Seattle Good Business Network, shopping at small businesses does boost local economies, with $68 of every $100 spent staying in the community, compared to only $43 of every $100 spent at a large business.
As for unique gifts, shopping at small businesses is the way to go.
June Hess, the owner of Svensk Butik Swedish Gifts in Kingsburg, said her store carries items imported from Sweden, Norway and Denmark that just can’t be found at other Central Valley stores.
“We have Swedish clocks, Swedish Santas, electric candelabras for Christmastime, crystal vases and thousands of items, many of them Christmas specific, that are quality items you can’t find in other stores,” Hess said.
For Hess, Small Business Saturday should be a decent day for sales, but she most looks forward to opening her doors during two Kingsburg events that attract crowds to the city — tonight’s Julgransfest and the Santa Lucia celebration on Dec. 3.
“The night after Thanksgiving is Julgransfest. That is when we light the tree in town — we carol to the tree and after we do the Swedish rain dances in front of the tree. We’re open late that night, as long as people are here,” Hess said. “When the tradition started, it was small but over the years people from other cities started to come so now we have about 1,000 people participating.
“Then, the first Saturday of December, we have Santa Lucia Day. We have a parade at 5:30 p.m. and the floats are lit up with colorful lights and they are led by Santa Lucia, our festival queen…There are arts and crafts all day leading up to parade time, and in the morning, the restaurants get visits from Santa Lucia. It’s a busy day.”
Hess said the push toward shopping at small businesses and keeping dollars local is important.
“I remember when they first started doing big discounts on Black Friday, we saw a drop in sales and it hurt a lot because that is normally the weekend small businesses go from being in the red to the black,” Hess said. “A lot of people are drawn to these sales, but more and more I think people are discovering its fun and charming to be in a small town that is all decked out for the holidays. I don’t think its fun to wait in line in the cold for hours and then scramble to grab items. At the small stores, you can find thoughtful unique gifts you can’t get at those stores.”
While Hess plans on participating in Small Business Saturday, several stores in the rural parts of Fresno County are keeping their doors closed that day, opting to put their sales efforts into the following weekend or on another day that corresponds with their city’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony.
Fowler Floral and Gift Shop owner Talene Kasparian-Cleveland said she likes the concept of Small Business Saturday, but said small businesses fare better that day when they are in areas not far from the big box retailers, like Old Town Clovis or the Tower District in Fresno.
“We’re not doing anything for Small Business Saturday,” Kasparian-Cleveland said. “Fowler basically shuts down that weekend because so many people go to Fresno for the Black Friday sales… I love the idea of small business Saturday, but I’m not a fan of it being the day after Black Friday. I think it would be better if small business Saturday were the following week after the sales at the big box stores die down or the week before Black Friday.
“People are so enthralled with the big Black Friday sales on television and other items that small businesses are overlooked that weekend. A town like Clovis with lots of stores will benefit, but when you have a two-block downtown like ours, it’s hard to get people to stay and shop here.”
Instead, Kasparian-Cleveland said Fowler Floral will be hosting an open house on Dec. 2 to celebrate the store’s remodel. That day, she said, there will be sales on most items, as well as prizes, giveaways and an appearance by local author Armen Bacon from 10 to 11:30 a.m. The following day, the store will have 20 percent off most items during Fowler’s Christmas tree lighting.
While Fowler Floral is a full-service florist, the store also sells home décor, jewelry and other gifts. For Christmas, the store sells ornaments and also offers Christmas tree decorating services.
Though there aren’t many stores in Fowler, Kasparian-Cleveland said the small town has everything residents need and she would like to see everyone living there support their local businesses.
“It’s important to keep money in our small towns,” Kasparian-Cleveland said. “As a small business owner, when I go visit a small town, I pop into the small stores and support them. We have everything here in Fowler — we have a doctor’s office, a dentist, salons, a hardware store, a grocery store, a variety of restaurants — you really don’t need to leave here. Fowler is a hidden gem.”
Mary Reid, the owner of Designing Women, a boutique in Selma that sells clothing and accessories for women, clothing for babies and infants, and home décor, said her store will also be closed on Small Business Saturday. Instead, Designing Women is hosting an early bird special Monday through Wednesday.
Designing Woman’s big sales event in December is Men’s Night Out on Dec. 15. That evening, the store invites men to come shop for their wives, mothers and daughters. The event, Reid said, was held for the first time last year and was a big success.
Though she’s not participating in Small Business Saturday this year, Reid said she loves what Small Business Saturday represents and wants to encourage shoppers to shop local.
“Shopping local helps your city and the small business owner,” Reid said. “It’s a good way to support your local community. What you find in my store, you won’t find at Kohl’s or Walmart, and we have items that are more trendy.”