Independent retailers in Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire are embracing the upcoming Small Business Saturday initiative since it fits well with the region’s strong “shop local” spirit. Additionally, American Express recently launched the new marketing program to encourage Americans to shop at small businesses on Saturday, Nov. 27.
“It’s nice for the little guy to get some help from the big guys,” said Kim Souza, co-owner of Revolution, a popular vintage and designer boutique in downtown White River Junction, Vermont.
Souza posted a link to the Amex Small Business Saturday promotion on the Local First Alliance, which promotes local shopping, and plans to add it to Revolution’s Facebook page.
“The public seems more excited about shopping local and supporting independent stores,” said Souza, who has managed the store for about eight years. She’s transformed the colorful store into a popular hang-out by serving free cappuccinos, hosting fashion shows enhanced by live DJ’s, and throwing a wildly popular black tie Oscar® night party. In addition to high-quality and funky vintage dresses, coats and shoes, shoppers can find one-of-a-kind items by Made Marion, a Vermont designer who takes apart and recycles sweaters into new creations.
Revolution also sells trendy Cockpit USA clothes for men. Souza stocks all sorts of local products, including felted wool balls filled with Vermont-made soap and all sorts of sparkly earrings made by local artists.
To further encourage consumers to support local businesses, she’s spearheading the ‘White River Experience.’ She brought together 14 local shops and businesses ranging from the Tucker Box coffee shop and Tip Top Café, to the Vermont Bead Co. and Elixir, a local restaurant. Collectively, the small businesses are offering consumers $350 worth of gift cards and certificates for only $279.
“I love the concept of shopping locally,” said Morgan Perrone, owner of Valley Flower Company. She’s participating in the White River Experience and hoping to fill a lot of holiday flower and decoration orders starting with Thanksgiving. She also plans to promote Small Business Saturday to her customers. “I will definitely put a link on my website,” she said.
Khawachen, which sells handmade Tibetan rugs and gifts from Tibet and India, is stocked with hundreds of holiday gift items.
“We are geared up and planning for a busy time,” said Kathy Harvard, manager of the showroom on Main Street in Hanover, N.H. and vice president of the company. Down the block from Dartmouth College, the company was founded by Kesang Tashi, the first Tibetan to attend Dartmouth. Tibetan craftspeople produce rugs, jewelry and decorative items for the company... Many items sell for under $75.
“We have painted miniatures and all sorts of wall hangings,” said Harvard. “We had a good year last year and feel optimistic and confident that people are still going to celebrate Christmas.”
Although she wasn’t aware of Small Business Saturday, she said it was a good idea and she would spread the word.
At Essentia in Wellesley, Mass., owner Victoria Wallins said she’s hoping holiday sales will be stronger than last year when corporate and in home entertaining were down.
“We don't think that Americans can go much longer without turning the urge to celebrate back on,” said Wallins, who has been selling designer clothes, house wares, jewelry and gifts for 10 years.
This year, she’s reduced inventory but focused on bringing in unusual gift items to fit a range of prices. “This economy demands more creative sourcing on my part,” she said.
To draw customers into the beautiful store, Wallins hosts open house events with great food. “We also work with an extremely talented window display artist who always designs clever window displays.”
If you visit the store at 91 Central St., you will never see any snowflakes or gift-wrapped boxes in the window--just eye-catching displays that entice customers to open the door.
This season, Wallins is hoping her customers will buy sets of Claude Dozorme steak knives from France ($160). They feature resin handles in assorted colors and high quality blades. She’s also stocked a lot of fashionable, fingerless gloves in soft wools ($75). “These are a fashion statement and very practical,” said Wallins, who makes holiday shopping easy by offering free gift wrapping.
Sarah Hils, owner of Suitable Shades in Lebanon, N.H., is optimistic about holiday sales at her store. In addition to repairing lamps and selling all sorts of shades, she’s stocked a variety of affordable gift items. Her most popular gift item is a line of Illuminarts night lights which are made in New Hampshire and sell for about $20. She hoping shoppers looking to for stocking stuffers will check out finials, the decorative thing that secure the lampshade to the lamp. “They can add a little character to a boring lamp.”
Jane Applegate is a small business author and keynote speaker. The author of four books on small business management, she is currently writing third edition of 201 Great Ideas for Your Small Business, published by John Wiley & Co. The Applegate Group works with companies serving small business owners. TAG also produces independent films and promotional video projects.