With the winter holidays comes the shopping season, which means big savings and big lines at the store. Most people know about Black Friday, the day when most stores open in the wee hours of the morning, or even the evening before, and offer big sales. Shoppers that want to spend their money locally, however, and avoid lines and crowded aisles can participate in an event called Small Business Saturday.
Small Business Saturday is the local independent business owners' answer to Black Friday. The initiative is nationwide, and was begun three years ago by the American Express card company.
"They saw it as an opportunity," said Corry Mihm, executive director of the Summit Independent Business Association (SIBA). "There was this whole sector of businesses that was being steamrolled on Black Friday ... that this was a way to create awareness for the local businesses and smaller businesses that are the backbone of the national business community and certainly in Summit County."
While Black Friday is about early hours and big crowds, Small Business Saturday is about putting a focus on local businesses, which will offer various individualized sales and extras, which include gift certificates, presents with purchase and other initiatives.
"Quite a few of us are participating in Small Business Saturday," said Sheri Shelton, owner of Hand and Glove in Breckenridge. "Everybody's got some wonderful selections in their shops."
To earn extra savings on Small Business Saturday, American Express credit card owners can go online and register, which will give them a $25 credit in participating shops.
"The more (Small Business Saturday) gets well-known, the better it's going to be for all the little shops," Shelton said. "I just hope that residents and visitors alike really come down to Main Street and shop instead of going to Denver, because it's what makes our town so charming is our Main Street."
Rachel Zerowin, public relations manager at the Breckenridge Resort Chamber, agrees. Initiatives like Small Business Saturday allow shoppers to explore what's available from local merchants and find something unique.
"It really speaks to the independent merchants in Breckenridge because they're all offering distinctive products," Zerowin said. "The 'made in Breckenridge' scene is growing tremendously ... That side of it really speaks to the things that are happening on Main Street Breckenridge."
Breckenridge isn't the only place to find Small Business Saturday deals. Local independent businesses throughout the county will be participating not only on Saturday, but also in Summit Unchained, a holiday shopping initiative put on by SIBA.
Frank Lilly is the owner of Copy Copy in Frisco, as well as the president of SIBA.
"SIBA has a program that is specifically designed to encourage people to shift as much as their spending as is reasonable to local businesses, away from the chains and the big boxes," Lilly said.
The Summit Unchained holiday shopping campaign runs from Friday all the way through Dec. 31. Shoppers at local businesses will be given a chance to enter to win prizes, which range anywhere from gift certificates to free items.
"SIBA's mission is to create awareness about how critical the small businesses are to the character of our community," said Mihm. "That's our whole focus ... helping people really be aware of where their money goes."
Mihm explains that by shopping at local independent businesses, shoppers ensure that the money they spend stays in the community and works to strengthen and improve it, rather than go to big corporations out of county and out of state.
"It really creates a social fabric within the community," Mihm said.
Local businesses employ local people, who then spend money on local products, or spend their time volunteering at local events. These businesses are also more likely to hire local lawyers, accountants and marketers, rather than using someone at a corporate office far away. Also, in most small businesses, customers can easily talk directly to the owner and feel a social and personal connection.
"Also, if you're supporting locally owned business, then you're helping keep our community unique," Lilly said. "You can go to any town anywhere in the U.S., and find the same big boxes. But if you want to help keep Summit County from looking just like Anytown, U.S.A., then one way to help do that is to help support the locally owned independent businesses."
So far, both Small Business Saturday and Summit Unchained have been successful in Summit County. According to Mihm, last year the Summit Unchained program generated $97,000 worth of local spending.
"We do find nationally where there are these 'buy local' campaigns, businesses fare better than the national average, and we certainly found that last year," Mihm said.
Locally focused campaigns such as Small Business Saturday and Summit Unchained have been shown in studies to have positive economic impacts. The Institute for Local Self Reliance gathered information showing that 'buy local' initiatives averaged a 7.2 percent increase over the previous year, as compared to the 2.6 percent increase reported by independent businesses in areas without such campaigns.
"It really helps create the camaraderie and the connections that keep us all living here," Mihm said. "We could live anywhere, and we choose to live here, and our visitors choose to come here because they get to feel a part of something that maybe they don't get at home, where people are really friendly and open and share and so it creates the overall experience for visitors and residents alike."