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'Small Business Saturday' Urges Shoppers To Spend At Local Stores

By Quinn Ford | December 1, 2013 8:25am
 Local stores around Chicago hopped on the national campaign to 'shop small' the day after Black Friday.
Small Business Saturday
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LINCOLN SQUARE — Shoppers may not have waited in line for hours for Black Friday deals at Enjoy, a tiny store in the Lincoln Square neighborhood, but the place was packed on Saturday afternoon.

"I'd say it's one of our busiest days of the year, which is really fun," said Alisa Rosenthal, who works at Enjoy. "The whole neighborhood really comes alive today."

Enjoy sits on the 4700 block of Lincoln Avenue, which makes up the heart of Lincoln Square's commercial district, and the majority of storefronts on the block are small independent businesses.

While crazed holiday shoppers stormed big-box stores like Wal-Mart and Best Buy on Friday, a national campaign spearheaded by American Express urges consumers to "shop small" on "Small Business Saturday," the day after Black Friday.

The campaign, which was launched in 2010, had a noticeable impact on the crowds, Rosenthal said.

"People are more aware of what it is, and it's really cool because people specifically say to us, 'Oh, I'm here to support you," said Rosenthal, who has worked at Enjoy for almost five years. "The shoppers are very, very thoughtful and considerate in that way because you can be strategic with your shopping if you're trying to make a statement."

In 2012, shoppers across the country spent an estimated $5.5 billion, according to a survey of consumers conducted by American Express and the National Federation of Independent Business.

And small business owners argue those dollars matter to the community, especially in Chicago.

For every dollar spent at a local store, 68 cents will remain in the Chicago economy, according to a 2002 study which analyzed businesses in the Andersonville neighborhood. The study, which was conducted by the consultancy firm Civic Economics, found only 43 cents of each dollar will remain in the city when spent at a chain store.

Rudy Flores, who heads the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce, said the Small Business Saturday campaign is a good way to make people realize they can "do a lot of their shopping at a local business."

"We know that you can't do everything locally, so there is a need for Target and things of that nature," Flores said. "But there's also a big need to have these local, close-knit community stores to create a sense of family, and by doing so, you're reinvesting in your own community."

The city is also pushing residents to think local when shopping the holiday season. Beginning Saturday, the city is touting its Unwrap Chicago campaign, part of a larger "Eat, Drink and Buy Local" campaign which asks Chicagoans to spend at least a dollar each day of the year at a local store.

Neighborhoods throughout the city — like Lincoln Square, Hyde Park and Pilsen — are participating in the Unwrap Chicago campaign, which lasts until Christmas.

Tiffany Paige, who owns Modern Cooperative in Pilsen, said she appreciates the attention from local and national campaigns during the holiday season.

"I'm a small business owner, so I think shop small should be everyday, not just one day a year, but with that in mind, I do think it's cool that with all the big-box stores, there is attention being drawn to small business," Paige said.

Paige said she thought her store saw more shoppers on Saturday than last year. She said the extra focus on small businesses around the city is a big benefit since stores like hers "can't compete with the big guys."

"I live in the neighborhood. I opened my business in the neighborhood, so I care very much about it, and you know, I think it's really important to keep your dollars local and help the small guy," she said.

Back in Lincoln Square a few doors down from Enjoy, Timeless Toys owner Martha Burrows also said spending locally helps the neighborhood.

"It supports the local schools, the local tax base," Burrows, who has run the tiny toy store for 20 years, said. "Every one of my employees lives in the neighborhood."

And Burrows said small neighborhood stores can offer a shopping experience shoppers cannot find at big box stores.

"If you're the uncle that doesn't know anything about toys, we can tell you what's great for a 5-year-old boy or girl," she said. "We have the expertise here."