CRYSTAL LAKE – Small, independent businesses in McHenry County are gearing up for Small Business Saturday as a way to get more shoppers in the door.
With all of the hype surrounding Black Friday sales at national chains and big box retailers, small business owners are hoping growing awareness about Small Business Saturday will translate into more customers and more sales during the critical holiday shopping season.
Locally, many diverse businesses are participating, from construction, farm and residential equipment dealer B&K Power Equipment Inc. in Marengo to downtown Crystal Lake gift store Out of the Box.
Small Business Saturday, created by American Express in 2010, is a day dedicated to supporting small businesses across the country the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
The day “has brought awareness to the community about what small businesses have to offer and gets people to think more about small businesses,” said Suzanne Cannon, owner of Steffan’s Jewelers in McHenry.
“We’ve seen an impact,” she added. “People are really starting to get it.”
Steffan’s Jewelers, a family business since 1946, can “guarantee a more enjoyable shopping experience” without crowds and long lines on Small Business Saturday and throughout the season, Cannon said.
Cannon said the hype of big discounts on Black Friday is in stark contrast to the practices of small business owners, who strive to offer fair prices year-round and don’t have the margins to mark down items by 70 percent.
Many local merchants are offering specials and other deals, said Kay Bates, president of the McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce.
“Small Business Saturday has really focused attention on small businesses,” she said.
Of the retailers planning Small Business Saturday events nationwide, 67 percent plan to offer discounts Nov. 30, according to the Small Business Saturday Insights Survey released by the National Federation of Independent Business and American Express. Seventy percent said Small Business Saturday would help attract new customers, the survey found.
“Small-business owners are always looking for new ways to creatively promote their products and services – especially in a tough economy,” NFIB president and CEO Dan Danner said in a news release. “Small Business Saturday is a reminder of how important the small-business sector is to our economy.”
Out of the Box in Crystal Lake is offering deals and on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. On Small Business Saturday, the store’s jewelry will be 20 percent off. An email sent to customers offered a 10 percent off coupon to skip Cyber Monday, enticing shoppers to “step away from your computer on Monday and spend your money locally where it benefits your community.”
Owner Mary Batson said she’s glad to see Small Business Saturday catching on.
“Black Friday gets so much publicity,” she said. “That’s why this campaign is so amazing.”
Although her discounts aren’t as big as national retailers, Batson said customers appreciate being able to buy unique items at reasonable prices.
“We don’t have the buying power of big box retailers, but we also don’t mark up the prices just to mark them down,” she said. “People have realized the value of shopping local. They know the money stays here and that we create local jobs.”
The national Small Business Saturday campaign, along with local events, should make for a busy weekend at Crystal Lake’s downtown businesses, said Diana Kenney, executive director of Downtown Crystal Lake.
American Express has been promoting Small Business Saturday since 2010, and many local businesses have embraced it, said Gary Reece, president of the Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce.
“There’s more awareness about it, and it brings attention to small businesses,” he said. “There are statistics galore on the benefits of shopping locally at independently owned small businesses.”