Brooklyn’s Atlantic Avenue was abuzz with excitement on November 24, this year’s Small Business Saturday. Droves of people strode along the 11-block, tree-lined shopping and dining district while a trolley bus gave free rides to delighted families. Shops served hot cider and cookies. Professional, period-dressed carolers sang songs as shoppers purchased holiday gifts for loved ones.
“The scene was really beautiful,” says Nancy Cogen, owner of The Melting Pot, a batik custom clothing store on Atlantic Avenue. “It got everyone in the spirit of Christmas.”
Josef Szende is the man behind the festivities. As executive director of the six-month-old Atlantic Avenue Business Improvement District, he made it his mission to maximize Small Business Saturday for independent retailers in his community.
Szende started planning two months prior by contacting each business owner and connecting them with the Small Business Saturday website. From there, he booked the trolley bus, the carolers, came up with marketing ideas for local retailers and printed gift guides for consumers. His plan worked beautifully.
“I went really well and our businesses experienced high traffic on that day,” he says.
Atlantic Avenue isn’t the only place that benefited from Small Business Saturday. Consumers spent $5.5 billion at independent retailers on Nov. 24, surpassing former estimates of $5.3 billion, according to a survey released by the National Federation of Independent Business and American Express.
Government officials have taken notice of the holiday, too; the U.S. Senate recently passed a Small Business Saturday Resolution supporting efforts to encourage consumers to shop small. President Barack Obama and elected leaders from all 50 states also supported the holiday.
No Discounts Needed
The Small Business Saturday buzz made Traci Bratton very happy. As owner of Walnut Street Traditions, a home décor store in Lafayette, Ind., she was featured in her local newspaper and saw a nice sales boost despite choosing not to discount her merchandise.
“Nothing was on sale,” she says. “We had hot cider and cookies. It was a wonderful Saturday; definitely bigger than normal.”
In Seattle, Jason Mathews was also on cloud nine. He is owner of Sheridan + Company, a newly opened interior design firm. Upon hearing of Small Business Saturday in the spring, he made plans to market his business for the holiday. He created a client appreciation event complete with sparkling wine and pomegranate juice and placed on-sale furniture on the sidewalk to lure in passersby. Less than 24 hours prior, though, he thought of cancelling.
“The weather was horrible on Friday, but I decided to stick it out. I’m so glad I did, because Saturday was beautiful and a lot of people came to the party,” Mathews says. “We ended up bringing in about 20 percent more in sales that day than on a normal Saturday.”
Back on Brooklyn’s Atlantic Avenue, Cogen is still basking in the glow of Small Business Saturday. She was one of the businesses that gave out hot drinks and snacks to shoppers and says she, too, saw excellent sales on the holiday.
“Small Business Saturday makes everyone happy,” she says. “I even took my American Express card and bought $25 worth of chocolate from an independent merchant down the street. It was really fun.”
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