With Thanksgiving slowly becoming the new Black Friday as many national retailers plan to open their doors before the Thanksgiving turkeys even gets cold, small businesses are finding they too have to find a way to get their holiday shopping message out to potential consumers. For some, that means piggybacking on the outreach for Small Business Saturday, a shopping event dedicated to supporting small businesses.
Small Business Saturday, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, was developed as a way to bring shoppers into stores, and is supported with advertising and other promotional tools from American Express.
Theresa Martinez, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Latino Chamber told EGP that small businesses don’t always have the same steady stream of revenue as national chain retailers located in area malls, which makes it harder for them to get their advertising message out.
She said she has had conversations with several business owners in the Los Angeles area and many say the holiday season is when they generate the income needed for the entire year to keep the doors open, she said.
This year, five fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas means small business owners have less time to maximize their holiday sales, and in some cases the results of their efforts will determine if they are still in business in 2014.
Damien Orozco owns Iron Dog Fitness and is an Executive Board Member of the Monterey Park Chamber of Commerce. He told EGP that the holiday season brings out shoppers that don’t walk in the door at other times of the year.
“Some businesses may be thinking about closing their doors but the holidays may be their lifesaver,” he said.
Small businesses everywhere are gearing up to be the alternative to crowded malls and mass merchandising, with many offering special discounts on unique and quality gifts.
In the city of Bell Gardens, shoppers have many options that do not involve a trip to a large shopping mall and which contribute to the “city’s vitality,” says Bell Gardens Chamber of Commerce Director Carlos Cruz. Located on Florence and Eastern Avenue, the Bell Gardens Marketplace, Los Jardines and Village Square all offer small businesses, larger retailers and restaurant options.
The Latino Chamber’s Martinez suggests shoppers check out some cultural hubs such as East Los Angeles, Little Tokyo and the El Salvador Community Corridor, for shopping and dining. Eagle Rock and Highland Park also have great shopping districts.
In the heart of Los Angeles, a block from the Union Station mass transportation hub, sits the historic Olvera Street marketplace. It has the added benefit of offering museums and live entertainment, along with great shopping.
“People don’t always think of Olvera Street as a place to go for gifts, but our store has many beautiful and unique gifts, imported from Mexico or made by local artisans, and in a variety of price ranges,” said Debbie Seanez, one of the owners of Corazon de Los Angeles, an art gallery and cultural gift store on Olvera Street.
“The advantage to shopping on Olvera Street, and in our store —upstairs from La Golondrina restaurant and underneath the Siquieros mural — is that you can find something special and unique for everyone on your gift list, and not just have to settle for another sweatshirt or scarf,” she added.
Some small businesses, like Corazon de Los Angeles, are stepping up their print advertising and are using social media more aggressively, sending out more frequent email promotions to customers letting them know about their holiday discounts.
According to an NFIB survey, this year more small businesses are pulling all the stops to reach customers, including starting sales earlier, offering discounts or in some cases a free gift with purchase.
“The holiday season is very important for Olvera Street, for the same reasons it’s important to any retailer, big or small – it’s the opportunity to highlight our businesses and share our products with patrons,” says Christina Mariscal-Pasten, a founding member of the Olvera Street Merchants Association Foundation. Her family also owns Myrosa Enterprises, which carries a wide array of Mexican themed items.
“We [Olvera Street] have something for everyone –Taquitos for the foodie, beautiful pieces of art for the art collector, traditional garb for anyone really, and of course, one of the largest selections of trinkets and souvenirs – both traditional and not.”
The third annual Small Business Saturday is being hailed by many local officials who recognize that small businesses are important both for the taxes they generate, and for creating jobs.
Even California Gov. Jerry Brown weighted in this week on Small Business Saturday, noting that 3.4 small businesses in California account for “99 percent of the state’s employers and employ 52 percent of the workforce.
“Small businesses embody the entrepreneurial spirit that has driven the economy of our Golden State. Over half of our private sector workforce is employed by small business. On Saturday, November 30th, I urge all Californians to support small businesses and merchants on Small Business Saturday and throughout the year.”
Denise Hagopian owns A Heavenly Choice in Montebello. She told EGP that when customers flock to small businesses to shop they get a more personal experience because the owners “live and breathe” the products they sell, not to mention they actively support the community they are in.
“Everyone should appreciate what a small business does to the community and understand the impact if they close down,” she said. “Small businesses support the local community.”