By Gianna Volpe
It’s the fifth anniversary of “Small Business Saturday,” an annual weekend occurrence where consumers across the nation are encouraged to talk turkey at local stores rather than ringing holiday purchases up at big box shops and Sag Harbor Village will be as vibrant as ever for this year’s event, according to local business owners.
“One of the nicest things about Sag Harbor is that we really do have a great, functioning village with that needed year-round support, but it’s still really nice to have that one day with a special focus on small business,” said Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce president Lisa Field, who also owns the Sag Harbor Variety Store on Main Street. “It’s really about a way for the consumer to give back to small businesses by saying, ‘Hey, I really love this place where I live and this neighborhood I am a part of and I really want to support them the way they support us throughout the year.”
“It draws attention to the fact that though everyone does their shopping everywhere — malls, Amazon and big box shops included —a focus on supporting small businesses is important,” she added.
Small Business Saturday was actually started in 2010 by American Express. It occurs annually the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and the day after Black Friday, when large box stores often lure clients to their doors with sales and promotions.
According to American Express, in 2014, an estimated $14.3 billion was spent at small independent businesses on Small Business Saturday, compared to $73.9 million in 2012.
Some spots in Sag Harbor will offer buyer incentives this Saturday, like at The Wharf Shop, where Gwen Waddington said store hours will be extended to better convenience its holiday shopping second-home owners while American Express card holders will enjoy a 10 percent discount on the shop’s stock of jigsaw puzzles.
“We have puzzles for children from one year old to adult, including 1,500 piece puzzles, so there’s something for everything,” said Ms. Waddington, adding the store’s secret to keeping folks shopping local lies in their superior customer service.
“The number one strategy is personal service and our recommendations,” she said. “Often a customer will come in and they’ll say, ‘I need a gift for a three-year-old and it’s been so long since I’ve met a three-year-old,’ so we steer them in the right direction.”
And it’s not just the recommendations that make local holiday shopping a treat, according to Ms. Waddington.
“Never forget our free gift wrapping service,” she said of The Wharf Shop. “So many people appreciate the fact that we will wrap their selections for free — allowing those who don’t have time to wait to come back and pick up their purchases — and that we have both Christmas and Hanukkah paper.”
Accessibility and customer service are ideals that many local businesses — even those that don’t tend to see much in the way of a ‘Small Business Saturday’ boost in sales — say are their bread and butter when it comes to how they draw consumers away from the web and big box stores.
“Small Business Saturday doesn’t do a lot for us, though we participate in it every year, because people don’t usually walk beyond Dockside unless they’re coming here for something,” said Amy O’Donnell of the five-year-old tech shop, GeekHampton, located on Bay Street. “We’re more of a destination location and people come to us because we have phenomenal customer service and we curate gift packages and bundles leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas. Plus we’re here, so if a customer has a problem on the back end, they can just come back.”
Those Small Business Saturday shoppers looking to set-up their sweetheart with something along the lines of an Apple TV bundle this holiday season are encouraged to momentarily stray from Main Street to check out Geekhampton’s popular gift bundles this year alongside the tech shop’s annually climbing clientele.
“We have a really, really loyal clientele and get more people every year,” said Ms. O’Donnell. “But we’re not a Main Street shop, so [Small Business Saturday] is never really a huge money day for us.”