Small shops ready for their big day (Columbus Dispatch)

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By Tim Feran 
The Columbus Dispatch

Posted Nov 23, 2017 at 9:49 PM

Small businesses across central Ohio are gearing up for the eighth annual Small Business Saturday, and even though they are competing for attention against everything from big-box retailers’ Black Friday events to the Ohio State-Michigan game, they anticipate another successful day.

This year, 88 percent of Ohio consumers plan to “shop small” on Small Business Saturday, according to a survey sponsored by the National Federation of Independent Business, the largest small business association in the country.

Last year, more consumers than ever shopped on Small Business Saturday — an estimated 112 million shoppers, up from the previous high in 2015 of 95 million shoppers. In Ohio, small retailers pulled in 129 percent of their average daily revenue on Small Business Saturday, according to new data analysis from business software company Womply.

While spending last year at independent retailers and restaurants around the nation dipped to $15.4 billion from 2015′s high of $16.2 billion, it was consistent with spending trends seen on Black Friday and the Thanksgiving weekend in 2016, said Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, Small Business Saturday spokesperson for American Express.

“That being said, we were encouraged to see that at a time when an increasing number of consumers are opting to shop online — and are spreading their holiday shopping spending over a longer period of time — many still prioritized visiting brick and mortar small businesses on Small Business Saturday last year,” Reyhle said.

This year, more than 7,200 “Neighborhood Champions” around the nation — individuals, small business, chambers of commerce and the like — have pledged to rally their communities to celebrate the day, “so we’re looking forward to another memorable Small Business Saturday,” Reyhle said.

The designated shopping holiday came about in 2010 in the aftermath of the Great Recession, when American Express created Small Business Saturday to help remind shoppers that non-chain retailers have plenty to offer during the Christmas-shopping season.

Although the credit-card company created the day and continues to provide marketing resources to businesses that typically would be too small to have a public-relations staff, small merchants have gladly taken possession of the idea and made it their own, even if they don’t accept American Express cards.

While all small retailers participate, every year a few areas are in the spotlight. This year, the spotlight is on the Westgate BusinessWorks, a business incubator that assists retail start-ups, which will have music, food and special promotions from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at 13 North Westmoor Avenue.

“Last year we had a holiday popup store that was in two stores,” said Daryl Hennessy, who founded the organization in 2015.

This year’s event has grown to four stores. “The series of four stores are all decorated and hosting special events, and all offer handcrafted or handmade items,” Hennessy said. “We’ll have things like face painting and there will be an opportunity to watch some of the artists in action, working on their craft.”

The Small Business Saturday event epitomizes what the Westgate BusinessWorks is all about, Hennessy said.

“I bought a couple of underutilized buildings and tried to offer commercial space below market rate, trying to create some economic activity,” Hennessy said. “Last year, there was absolutely a tremendous turnout from the community in support of the stores. So we’re very excited about this event.”

tferan@dispatch.com

@timferan