By John Wolcott HBJ Freelance Writer
MONROE — The Small Business Saturday sales promotion on Nov. 24, sponsored by the National Federation of Independent Business with help from American Express, is starting to draw more shoppers who want to spend their holiday dollars in local businesses.
Small Business Saturday is sandwiched between Black Friday sales — events that have encroached on the Thanksgiving holiday to put retailers “in the black” as shoppers start Christmas shopping in earnest — and Cyber Monday promotions for online shopping.
In Monroe, Ben Franklin owner and general manager Adrian Taylor said he had a great 10 percent gain on Small Business Saturday over the same event in 2011, “and Saturday was much better than Friday,” pointing out that the shop locally small-business promotion really worked for his crafts store.
Taylor also noted how important buying locally can be for the community as well as local businesses.
“According to the U.S. Department of Labor, for every $100 spent at independent, locally owned businesses, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures, but for every $100 spent at national chain stores, only about $43 returns to the community. Of course, for money spent at online stores, none of it comes back to the community,” Taylor said.
Stacy Jenkins in NFIB’s Olympia office said there are about 350 Snohomish County businesses belonging to the association, including about 90 representing retailers.
Small Business Saturday is less well known but growing each year with the NFIB’s support, building on many year-around promotions to “buy locally.”
In 2011, a national survey reported that more than 100 million people responded to the “ShopSmall” program theme, providing broad support to small businesses.
This year, the third annual Small Business Saturday event was expected to be promoted by 47 percent of independent merchants as part of their holiday sales promotions, according to this year’s first Small Business Saturday Insights Survey, released recently by NFIB and American Express.
To help business owners promote their businesses for Small Business Saturday, American Express offered free tools on www.ShopSmall.com, which included geo-targeted online advertising, customizable marketing materials and actionable tips from real-life entrepreneurs on what they did last year to make the day a success. American Express also offered its individual cardholders a $25 credit for a charge of $25 or more at participating Small Business Saturday merchants and restaurants.
According to the Better Business Bureau’s office in DuPont, a 2011 survey by American Express reported that 93 percent of Americans believe it is important to support local small businesses in their communities, a theme chambers of commerce and many communities have embraced.
Street banners and promotions supporting the “shop locally” theme have been successful in a variety of Snohomish County communities, despite the attractions of numerous big-box chain stores.
NFIB is the leading small-business association representing small and independent businesses. A nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded in 1943, NFIB represents the consensus views of its members in Washington and all 50 state capitals.
Plan ahead to avoid holiday debt hangovers
No matter where you shop for the holiday season, there are strategies all consumers can use to keep spending reasonable and avoid those post-holiday debt hangovers, according to Cathy Henry, assistant vice president of marketing for NW Plus Credit Union in Everett.
The credit union’s financial planning and shopping tips include:
• Make a budget and a list. Decide before you shop how much you can afford to spend and stay within that budget. Make a price list of all gifts and other holiday items you plan to purchase, even if it’s a more general rather than detailed list. Make sure your list includes not only gifts but also expenses for all the projects and activities that make up your holiday, including holiday foods, party clothes, decor and postage.
• Comparison shop. You can easily save more than 10 percent on most items, sometimes considerably more, by comparing prices at different stores. The Internet and smartphones have made comparison shopping even easier. When shopping online, be sure you are purchasing from a secure site and review emailed statements for accuracy.
• Make time your ally. Start sooner rather than later. When you delay, you pay. Last-minute shopping often means settling for something that might cost more than you planned. After Christmas is a good time to shop for next year’s presents, thanks to many great bargains right after the holidays.
• Pay off debts quickly. You’re less likely to overdo it if you pay in cash. If you must make holiday purchases using credit, use a lower-interest card and pay off this debt as soon as possible. Remember that credit-card debt is relatively expensive. If you only make the required minimum monthly payment, you may never pay off the debt.
• Open a Christmas Club account. These accounts don’t pay much interest, but they provide a practical way to save small amounts over time. Ask your credit union or bank to automatically transfer funds from your checking to your Christmas Club account.
• Check supply drawer. You may have more wrapping paper, ribbons, unused cards and gift boxes stored away from last season than you realize. Use those holiday supplies first to trim down the amount you’ll have to buy this season.
• Understand how layaway programs work. Store layaway programs have re-emerged this holiday season, allowing consumers to put items on hold at the store and pay for them over time. But check the payment schedule and read the fine print. Be realistic about how these payments will fit into your spending plan and understand the rules on layaway payments, service fees, late and cancellation fee policies, refund and exchange policies.
• Be smart about gift cards. Read the fine print. If you get a gift card, use it sooner rather than later to avoid forgetting about unused balances on the card. If you still have gift cards from last year, use them to shop this year.
• Pay attention to the return policy. Store policies vary. Keep receipts and note time limits, restocking fees and other factors.
• Find low-cost or no-cost ways to celebrate. For example, draw names to limit the number of people for whom you purchase gifts; give homemade items; make your own gift wrap; organize a potluck rather than trying to make, and pay for, the entire holiday meal.
• Avoid identity theft online. Internet Retailer, an online magazine, projects that $54.47 billion will be spent online by U.S. consumers this year. Have a safety strategy: use a strong password for websites that include numbers, letters and special characters; never use the same password on multiple shopping sites; never use your name or easily guessed words; and create an e-shopping email address to limit your data exposure if a retailer is hacked.