By Dionne Gleaton The Times and Democrat, Orangeburg, S.C.
Small businesses in The T&D Region are looking for ways to increase their numbers of holiday shoppers.
They are optimistic about a national day designed to celebrate the unique charm and economic impact that small businesses bring to their communities -- and a new campaign aimed at boosting their business.
Small Business Saturday since 2010 has been an American observance held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving during one of the busiest shopping periods of the year.
This year's celebration will be Nov. 28 and is comfortably nestled between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Small Business Saturday is also a registered trademark of the American Express Co.
The Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce has done much work in emphasizing the importance of small businesses in bolstering the local economy. OCCOC President Dede Cook encourages shoppers to shop locally among the county's small business community.
"A community certainly thrives on its small entrepreneurs, and most of the chamber's membership is comprised of small business. We certainly want to support that. We are the voice of business in the community and with that voice, we want to help people understand the advantages of shopping locally," Cook said.
As part of investing in the community, the chamber has launched a Shop Local campaign offering small businesses that are chamber members the opportunity to place advertisements in The Times and Democrat on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 27-28. Cook said individuals who shop at the local small businesses listed in the special ad section will also be offered "chamber bucks" to spend. Customers will be allowed to save 20 percent on purchases of $100 or more; 15 percent on purchases of $50 or more, and 5 percent on purchases of $25 or more.
"We've put out to our chamber membership that this is a great way for us to advertise for them and participate in chamber bucks. People can go into a chamber small business and support that business and keep their money at home. The names of participating businesses can grow over the course of the ad campaign. It will run before Thanksgiving and run until Christmas," Cook said.
"We typically just say, 'We should shop local,' but this time we wanted people to receive some savings by doing so as well."
Kyla Fraser, sales manager at The Times and Democrat, said, "It is an opportunity for small local businesses to showcase what they have in terms of retail items, services and things like that. Just about any business in Orangeburg outside of an industry qualifies as somebody who can participate."
"It's a page or a couple of pages of ads that will be in the Black Friday newspaper as well as Saturday. The promotion is sponsored by the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce and just gives these smaller businesses a chance to let folks know what they've got in a very inexpensive way ... during this very busy shopping season," she said.
Fraser said small businesses are the lifeblood of the downtown community's economic success.
"They are, and part of the focus is to promote shopping locally. It's very easy in a market like ours to get caught up in what's available outside Orangeburg in Columbia, Charleston and surrounding areas, but there's a lot to offer in town," she said.
"The Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce has been a very strong advocate of shopping locally and has promoted that very heavily through the shopping season over the past several years. This is right in line with their goals, too, and is in alignment with the national Small Business Saturday campaign" Fraser said.
Jennifer Hoesing, executive director of the Downtown Orangeburg Revitalization Association, said Small Business Saturday appropriately redirects holiday shoppers into supporting small local businesses.
"It encourages us all to think about shopping locally since small business is such a big picture everywhere, but especially in rural communities like ours," Hoesing said.
Hoesing said DORA has always made shopping among small businesses a focus, especially during the Christmas season.
"If you're going to spend $100 for the Christmas season or for shopping whenever, 68 percent of that money stays in the community and sort of recirculates if you spend with a non-franchise, locally owned business," Hoesing said. "If you're talking about one of the big boxes or franchise organizations, the numbers drop to just 48 percent."
Individuals can help make a significant economic impact even if they redirected as little as $10 a month to locally owned business shopping, she said.
"If every American family did that, it would return $9 billion to local small business. That's a big number, so we just encourage everyone to do their part. I think that the role of small business in community life should not be underestimated," Hoesing said.
Sandy Bryant is owner of Orangeburg Furniture Exchange, a fixture in Orangeburg's small business community.
"You can't shop locally if you can't find what you want, but I would say shop locally if you can. At least give the local businesses a chance at it," he said, noting that while good customer service is key, "you have to have what people want at the same time."
"We try to keep what people want, and I think that's important. People can sometimes find things at a small business that they can't find anywhere else too. The big chains just carry the most popular stuff, but sometimes people need other things, too, and local merchants possibly would have that," Bryant said.
"It's been tough, but we're still here, and we plan on staying here as long as we can," he said.
Paula Brooker Guess is owner of family-owned Brooker's in Denmark and is participating in The T&D's Small Business Saturday advertising promotion.
Guess said small businesses offer uniquely charming customer service.
"The main thing is we want to generate business in the local economy. We do personal service and take care of our customers whether we're serving them coffee, helping them find a gift or wrapping a gift for free," Guess said.
"It's what I call old-fashioned shopping ... and you know that you've kept money right there in town," noting that the hardware store has blossomed over the years into many service areas, including a full gift shop.
"Small businesses are the bread and butter and heart and soul of a town. If you don't have your downtown businesses and all you have is box businesses around, you'll find out real quick what service is all about," Guess said.
Hoesing said, "We don't expect folks who are accustomed to shopping and dining out of town to stay in Orangeburg every single time, but if we could just convince people to make it a habit to stay local 20 percent of the time, that capture is very significant.
"That sort of confidence in our own marketplace helps strengthen the case for new businesses to open and strengthens those that are existing."