By Jerry Siebenmark
The Wichita Eagle.
Kay Wiggins likes to think a combination of good fortune and nimbleness is why her small, retail jewelry and gift shop has hung on since it opened in 1999.
“I’ve been very lucky,” said the owner of Kay Wiggins Jewelry & Gifts at 600 S. Tyler. “I think … being my own company, maybe I can adapt to changes quickly, learning my customers and what their needs are.”
As the biggest sales season of the year kicks off, small retailers such as Wiggins are looking for any advantage they can get in the competition for consumers’ wallets. Most don’t have expansive marketing budgets nor the geographic reach that their much larger retail competition has.
They said they have seen some benefits in the shop-local movement in recent years, as well as from promotions such as credit card company American Express’ Small Business Saturday, set for Saturday.
But just as much, they have had to figure out other ways to draw in customers at a time when consumers are bombarded with TV holiday jingles, promises of steep discounts at big boxes, online offers, and more and more stores offering big sales not only on Black Friday but on Thanksgiving Day as well.
Wiggins said she annually hosts a “big” holiday open house in advance of Thanksgiving and the holiday shopping season to bring shoppers in. The event includes food, special promotions for the day and a preview of new merchandise at her store, which is an authorized Pandora jewelry retailer and also offers Vera Bradley branded purses and accessories.
She promotes the event to more than 6,500 people on her e-mail customer list, through signs outside her store and on radio.
She said in 2011 her store started a Facebook page, which she said has benefited her business, which employes seven people.
The Facebook page, which had 1,259 likes as of last week, has helped bring attention to her store, although Wiggins said she can’t put a number to how many people her store’s Facebook page and almost daily posts has brought through the door.
“After the first of the year, I really need to know how to do Twitter,” she said. “I really need to expose myself to that.”
Ron Long has worked for 37 years at the Ace Hardware at 4183 E. Harry, which is owned by Greg Paul.
Long manages the 43-year-old store that employs 20 people. He said to keep customers coming in, the store offers monthly drawings that some months can be a Weber grill, a leaf blower or maybe a power drill.
It also supplements the national advertising that the store gets from being part of the national Ace cooperative, Long said. Moreover, he said, the store is “in the beginning stages” of developing its own website and social media presence.
“They all tie together,” Long said of plans for a website and Facebook and Twitter accounts. “The whole shopping trend is moving towards that.”
As for the start of the holiday shopping season, Long said his store is moving beyond Black Friday.
“We always did the Black Friday blowouts,” he said. “Starting this year we’ll just start on Wednesday, close Thursday (Thanksgiving) of course, and go through the weekend.”
In 2010 American Express launched the Small Business Saturday promotion to encourage consumers to shop local, independent retailers on the day after Black Friday.
The 5-year-old event includes promotions and promotional materials offered by the credit card company to participating merchants and groups organizing local shopping events, and rewards to American Express cardholders who make purchases at participating small businesses on that day.
Results released last week of an American Express and National Federation of Independent Business survey of nearly 2,000 men and women 18 years and older in the U.S. said that 78 percent of those surveyed said they planned to spend more or the same amount on Small Business Saturday as they did a year ago.
Last year, American Express said consumers who were aware of Small Business Saturday reported spending $5.7 billion with independent merchants on that day, a 3.6 percent increase from $5.5 billion on the same day in 2012.
This year, Live Local & Propser, which founder Kat Frey calls a “local business alliance,” is creating a day-long event tied to Small Business Saturday in Delano, a neighborhood just west of the Arkansas River downtown.
The Wayback Holiday in The Historic Delano District will include a brunch kickoff at participating Delano restaurants, shopping incentives with some Delano retailers, gift wrapping services, henna tattoos and massages, activities for the children and live music.
“It’s kind of like a block party … concentrated between Seneca and McLean on Douglas,” Frey said, adding that Douglas will not be closed during the event, which will officially run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
She said about 20 businesses are participating.
“What we’re doing is so important,” Frey said. “Economically, the community and nonprofits benefit more when people are spending with local businesses.”
Jack Kellogg, owner of Hatman Jacks Wichita Hatworks at 601 W. Douglas in Delano, said he’s not sure he’s seen a significant increase in business because of Small Business Saturday.
“No, not a lot of bump,” said Kellogg, who has been in Delano since 1980. “We’ve participated in it numerous times. But if you can add one, two, three or four customers, it’s a positive.”
“It’s a very noble idea,” he said of the effort to promote shopping locally. “I just love it. I think it’s also great to see a younger demographic latching onto it, especially millennials.”
Wiggins said she’s convinced Small Business Saturday is a benefit and important day to her shop.
“Absolutely,” she said. “I do I hear from our customers so many times — and it’s new customers and existing customers — that they try to support local businesses. We do the Small Business Saturday and try to promote that to our customers. We provide food and refreshments … try to create more a sense of community. And each year it gets stronger and stronger.”