The holiday shopping season steps off in earnest right after Thanksgiving. But in between Black Friday with all those doorbusters and Cyber Monday with its computer convenience is Small Business Saturday (Nov. 24), where mom-and-pop stores have a chance to get in on the holiday action.
"This is the second year for us," said Renee Charles, project coordinator for Small Business Saturday efforts in central Illinois.
"Our whole goal is to get people to realize that small businesses are the lifeblood of every community," she said.
Charles, the director of public affairs at the Heartland Partnership in Peoria, is well acquainted with the impact small business has on the area economy.
"More than 95 percent of busineses in our region are considered small business and they employ half of all private sector workers," she said.
With two dozen regional partners on board such as area chambers of commerce, the area's Small Business Saturday initiative is also a shop-local program, said Charles.
"It's very important that we support (businesses) that are locally owned and operated because of the impact that they have on our towns," she said.
To help small businesses compete for the holiday shopping dollar, promotional help is provided, said Charles. "We want to showcase an even stronger effort this year. We're encouraging (small business) owners to create specials to entice shoppers to visit their stores," she said.
The Small Business Saturday movement is heavily tied into social media, said Charles, noting that last year's effort resulted in 2.6 million "likes" on Facebook and almost 200,000 supportive tweets on Twitter.
"We provide help to businesses on making a video for posting online and on using Twitter," she said.
Melida Heien, executive director of Pekin Main Street, said she's embarking on an awareness campaign for shoppers on how to use small stores to supplement their shopping at larger retail operations.
"You can do both," said Heien, noting that Downtown Pekin has "25 to 30" small businesses with items for sale.
Here's a sampling of what some area shops are doing to prepare for Small Business Saturday:
Main Statement, 610 W. Main St.
Matthew Colgan, co-owner with Danielle Auth of a new gift shop on Peoria's Main Street, where a number of small stores are springing up, said he looks forward to the holiday promotion.
Describing his business as "an eclectic store that sells handcrafted gifts and accessories," Colgan said refreshments will be served on Small Business Saturday along with "a promotion of some sort."
"Most of our artists are from the Peoria area with a few from out-of-state," he said.
Purple Moose, Washington
Stephanie Coultas, 31, is learning how to run a business while she's actually running a business on the Washington square that sells shoes, clothing and outdoor accessories.
"I'm the only employee and I'm learning as I go, but I can't think of a better way to do it," she said. "If I planned everything out before opening the business, I never would have done it. Jumping right in was the only way for me."
The store has been open since mid-September.
After spending seven years as a part-time personal trainer and group exercise instructor at Eastside Centre in East Peoria and 12 years as a part-time veterinarian's assistant, and with her two children in school, Coultas decided it was time to start a full-time career.
But not in the corporate world. "Sitting in a cubicle and doing the same thing over and over wasn't for me," she said.
As for Small Business Saturday, Coultas said she was planning on offering customers "eggnog, new inventory and probably have some sales."
Pooch Couture, Junction City shopping center in Peoria
Owner Lindsey Reck said her shop, which sells pet supplies, will offer bags providing a 20 percent discount on whatever's purchased for Small Business Saturday.
"I'm also going to do some people promotion to get more people out here," she said.
Reck said she planned to offer a coupon on Facebook for the Nov. 24 day.
Julie's Corner Store, Lacon
On Small Business Saturday, owner Julie Hubbard said she'd offer double points to shoppers at her store that's not only a gourmet fudge shop but sells wine and toys.
"With the points, shoppers can save 20 percent instead of 10 percent after they shop six times," she said.
"We'll also have fudge sampling and wine sampling plus special goodie bags," said Hubbard, who opened her store six years ago. Since then, she has doubled her space. Next spring she plans to expand with a coffee shop across the street.
"We always serve a high tea on that day in our tearoom and it's usually always booked," said co-owner Jackie Gillam.
Small Business Saturday comes at a good time at her store that specializes in goods from Great Britain, she said. "That's when our pantry items come out of England. The fancy chocolates and biscuits are at their peak. We order them in February but they don't arrive until November," said Gillam.
Waxwing Books, Chillicothe
Owner Richard Popp said that Chillicothe stores get a headstart on Small Business Saturday with special sales offered the previous Saturday, Nov. 17.
"As a used book store, we don't do a huge Christmas business but we do have people looking for special gifts," he said.
Acme Comics, 2218 W. Glen Ave.
Owner Bob Gordon said he looks for special prices on graphic novels and select comic books on Small Business Saturday. "We've also tripled our inventory of (used) records since the summer. We've got a lot of old vinyl," he said.
(Steve Stein contributed to this story)
Steve Tarter is Journal Star business editor. Tarter's phone number is 686-3260, and his email address is email@example.com. Follow his blog, Minding Business, on pjstar.com and follow him on Twitter @SteveTarter
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