’Tis the season to #ShopSmall

Small Business Saturday highlights locally owned businesses that are often overshadowed by Black Friday behemoths.

As consumers rush out in the wee hours of Nov. 24 to take advantage of this year’s Black Friday deals, they should save some money to spend the following day at the area’s small businesses.

This year marks the eighth annual Small Business Saturday, which was created by American Express in 2010 in response to small business owners’ most pressing need: getting more customers during the busy holiday shopping season. Last year, more than 112 million consumers shopped and dined small on the day.

This year Small Business Saturday is on Nov. 25. Even more consumers and communities like Madison are coming together to support all types of small businesses — from retail shops and restaurants to fitness studios and record stores.

Small businesses are the backbone — and the head, arms, legs, and basically every part of the body except for perhaps fingernails — of Wisconsin’s economy.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, Wisconsin has more than 445,000 small businesses (defined as businesses with fewer than 500 employees). Those businesses represent 99.4% of all employers in the Badger State and with 1.2 million employees account for 50.2% of the private sector workforce. Small businesses also account for 40,468 of the minority-owned business in the state.

That’s a lot of economic power for a bunch of very small businesses.

The Monroe Street Merchants Association is among the groups taking the lead this Small Business Saturday in downtown Madison. At least 25 Monroe Street businesses are expected to participate in this year’s event, and customers can stop in at participating Monroe Street restaurants, shops, and service businesses for a chance to win a cloth Shop Small tote bag with a $10 gift card.

Carol “Orange” Schroeder, co-owner of Orange Tree Imports, an award-winning gift and gourmet shop in Madison, and member of the Monroe Street Merchants Association, notes the locally owned businesses on Monroe Street, as well as others throughout the city, have been participating in Small Business Saturday since the start in 2010. While American Express no longer offers the financial incentive of a statement credit to its cardholders that helped launch this event, she says they are still putting a great deal of effort and money into building awareness of the day.

“Last year there was an estimate that an incredible 72% of consumers knew about Small Business Saturday, which shows what an effective way it is to get the buy local message out to everyone,” Schroeder says. “The past few years American Express has offered a Neighborhood Champion kit that makes it easy for the Monroe Street merchants to do a shared promotion — and with no home game at Camp Randall on Nov. 25, it’s bound to be a big day.”

So far about 25 shops and restaurants have said they will participate, 19 of which are currently listed at www.monroestreetmadison.com/small-business-saturday. “Almost all of the businesses on our street are locally owned, with a high percentage of them either women-owned or mom-and-pops,” notes Schroeder.

Among the planned activities on Monroe Street this Saturday, Schroeder says American Express has provided 200 reusable cloth Shop Small tote bags, and participating merchants will hold prize drawings to win bags with a $10 gift card from a shop or restaurant in it. “We want to encourage shoppers and diners to visit all the locally owned businesses on Monroe Street, so we’re mixing up the bags,” notes Schroeder. “There will also be some Shop Small swag in the winning bags and a few special offers, as well.”

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Small, but mighty

Schroeder notes the many unique, locally owned businesses in downtown Madison not only give the city and its neighborhoods their unique character, they also “help support all that we value in our city, from the arts and social service organizations to public amenities such as the parks and education.”

On average, 48% percent of each purchase at local independent businesses is recirculated locally, compared to less than 14% percent of purchases at chain a store, and even less from Amazon, says Schroeder. “And, of course, we have 100% more local employees than Amazon!”

Small Business Saturday is also a valuable lifeline for local small businesses, explains Schroeder, funneling some much-needed attention away from larger, chain stores at one of the most profitable times of the year.

“Orange Tree Imports has been in business over four decades,” says Schroeder, “and I have to say that this year has been one of the most challenging so far. It is essential to the success of all small stores that consumers — especially those who have come of age ordering merchandise on their phone — realize that locally owned shops couldn’t survive without customers spending at least some of their money locally.

“We strive to provide a fun shopping experience, with great customer service and a selection of merchandise, some sourced from area craftspeople and makers, that you won’t find elsewhere,” she continues. “We are fortunate to be part of a thriving shopping area on Monroe Street, with a great selection of shops and locally owned restaurants, too.

“In Dane Buy Local, Madison has one of the largest buy-local organizations in the country, and they do a great job of getting the word out about the importance of supporting local businesses,” Schroeder adds. “Our community is definitely receptive to the message, which is one reason that our shop has been around for so many years. And we hope to be around for many more thanks to our customers shopping locally on Small Business Saturday and beyond!”

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