You can hear from the songs on the radio, the ads in the newspaper, and the commercials on TV that the holiday season has begun. This week Cyber Monday and Black Friday will have consumers opening up their wallets to grab the perfect present for their loved ones.
According to USA Today, an estimated $12.3 billion in sales were brought in last Black Friday and Thanksgiving weekend. But with store hours expanding and merchandise prices dropping, local small businesses have a hard time competing against large retailers.
In order to keep up with the competition, local businesses have used this week’s hype to shop as a means of promotion. This weekend, local business owners in the Twin Cities will be celebrating Plaid Friday and Small Business Saturday.
Originally started in Oakland California in 2010, Plaid Friday encourages customers to wear plaid and shop at their local business rather than big box retailers. On Nov. 28, the movement will be coming for the first time to the Twin Cities. Small Business Saturday encourages people to shop the Saturday after Thanksgiving in order to support local business and to start a new holiday shopping tradition.
“Plaid Friday is a national network of local, independent businesses joining together to encourage their communities to support small retail stores while holiday shopping,” said Leslie Ostrander, the store manager at Egg Plant Urban Farm Supply. “By promoting each other we can create a strong community of independent shops that celebrates the creativity and diversity of local, independent businesses in St. Paul and Minneapolis.”
Ostrander helped to create a Facebook page last month and reached out to the Metro Independent Business Alliance to help promote the event, she said. There are so many diverse local businesses, she said, but many do not have the budget for advertising to be able to compete with larger, national chains.
“If we [local shops] join together we can share our audiences to let our communities know what wonderful stores and services are just a few miles away,” she said.
Teeny Bee Boutique owner Kristie Case said she will be participating in both Plaid Friday and Small Business Saturday this weekend. She said she plans to give an additional five percent discount to customers who wear plaid on Friday, as well as hold a store wide sale on Saturday.
“Every dollar you spend at a small business benefits and go’s back into the community,” Case said. “Shopping at a small business feeds into the vitality of the community.”
Case said she hopes that customers receive a more personal and intimate experience while at her store compared to her cooperate competition. “Shopping should be an investment,” she said.
Cathy Christensen, an Independent Consultant with Scentsy and co-owner of Electric Entertainment, said she wants to showcase the unique products small business make that can’t be found at name brand stores.
Christensen said on Saturday she will be hosting a sale at the Wellstone Community Center. “This day is set aside for us to let people know that they can shop small and still get great gifts for Christmas,” she said. “By shopping small they are supporting a family to have the ability to stay at home to have time with their families.”
Christensen said small business Saturday means having her small business help the community as well. During Saturday’s event, she said, she will be collecting non-perishables and will have gifts ready for purchase to be donated to the St. Paul nonprofit Neighborhood House. “[Neighborhood House’s] dedication to helping immigrants has impressed me and compelled me to help them in some way,” she said.
Just Truffles president Kathleen O’Hehir-Johnson said five percent of her sales to go to food shelves year round. “We are companies that do good not just to our customers, but to the community,” she said.
Just Truffles has been in business for 28 years. The company began at the St. Paul Hotel, and has relocated twice on Grand Avenue. “If I have a choice, I go to a small shop,” said O’Hehir-Johnson. “Its mechanical compared to locally handmade.”
For O’Hehir-Johnson, shopping at local businesses means having the ability to know the store. And she said that she is glad that with the emergence of Plaid Friday and Small business Saturday, people are acknowledging that shopping small can be an everyday activity rather than a holiday activity.
“Everyone has to start small, even Macy’s,” she said. “Shopping should be a treasure hunt rather than an expedition.”
This story was written by a Twin Cities Daily Planet intern for the TCDP college internship program. This is one of a number of articles produced by student interns at the TC Daily Planet. Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.