First, there was Black Friday. Then came Cyber Monday. Now, shoppers in search of unique holiday gifts are being urged on the Saturday after Thanksgiving to participate in Small Business Saturday.
The nationwide event was founded in 2010 by American Express as a way to help support small businesses and pump economic life into communities.
Small Business Saturday is estimated to have helped small businesses’ profits substantially since its inception. In 2012, U.S. consumers are believed to have spent $5.5 billion as they supported Small Business Saturday.
Last year, all 50 states recognized Small Business Saturday, as did President Obama, who took his daughters shopping at an independent bookstore in Virginia, and the U.S. Senate, which passed a resolution recognizing the event, according to a statement from a publicist for American Express.
Juanita “Busy Bee” Britton, founder of District of Columbia-based BZB International, which specializes in unique Black gifts and artwork, said shopping local businesses helps neighborhoods to thrive.
“We need to shop in our own community,” Britton said. “Customers should use their dollars in the best businesses that are close to home, in their community.”
As part of Small Business Saturday in Baltimore, American Express is offering a bonus to help some merchants boost their sales. Card holders who enroll at www.shopsmall.com before Nov. 30 will be eligible for $10 back when they spend at least $10 at certain registered businesses; details are on the company’s website.
“I hope a program like this will remind people that there are neighborhood stores that need the support,” said Esther Armstrong, owner of Sankofa African and World Bazaar on Charles Street in Baltimore.
Sankofa specializes in clothing imported from Africa featuring African prints and more home-grown patterns. The store also features unique African art and furniture pieces. Armstrong said customers who shop at Sankofa will receive 10 percent off their purchase from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1.
Britton’s annual BZB Holiday Gift and Art Show, held at Shiloh Baptist Church at 9th and O streets NW, is a phenomenon that has drawn tens of thousands of shoppers from as far away as New York and Florida for 23 years. The show takes place every Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving and subsequent Saturdays through Christmas.
Britton said shoppers looking for unique gifts will find more of a selection at a small, independent business. At her show, shoppers see everything from Black Betty Boop T-shirts to natural candles, shampoo, hair dressings and lotions to one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces to toys to afro-centric holiday stockings, chess boards, books and cards.
Britton presented the AFRO with her own “Top 10 List” of reasons why consumers should participate in Small Business Saturday and support community-based businesses:
1. UNIQUENESS: Give a unique gift they will treasure for a lifetime.
2. TIME SAVING: Save time, gasoline, and your nerves by avoiding traffic jams, unless you simply enjoy clinching your teeth going around the beltway.
3. EXCELLENT CUSTOMER SERVICE: Receive customer service with a personal touch from a similar-looking face.
4. GREAT VALUE: Shop and find great values and one-of-a-kind items.
5. COMMUNITY BUILDING: Help to increase the tax base - it helps to provide better services for your community.
6. COST SAVING: Avoid outlet malls, impersonal department stores, and overpriced merchandise.
7. RELAXING: Put the crowds, lines, and same old merchandise behind you.
8. TEACHABLE MOMENTS: Educate our youth [about] entrepreneurship while breezing through your shopping list.
9. REWARDING: Reward yourself with a gift from ALL of the money you saved.
10. WISE INVESTMENT: Spend more time enjoying your holidays and less time exhausted from your mall trips.