McHenry County customers support Small Business Saturday

Shoppers came out in droves this weekend to support local businesses in honor of Small Business Saturday.

In 2010, American Express began Small Business Saturday, which takes place annually the day after Black Friday, with a plan to attract shoppers to local businesses around the U.S.

Three-quarters of the 71 million customers expected to shop Saturday said they would come out specifically to support the day, according to the National Retail Federation.

McHenry County business owners – particularly those who have been involved in the event in past years – planned for and expected the boost in customers.

“More and more people know about. They plan for it,” said Arlene Lynes, owner of Read Between the Lynes on Woodstock’s historic Square. “This is typically as big, if not bigger now, than the Saturday before Christmas.”

Lynes said the store sees a more than 100 percent jump in traffic during the event, and it makes sure to ramp up inventory and have extra staff on hand. Extra customers throughout the weekend were expected because of the city’s Lighting of the Square event, which took place Friday, she said.

Shopping locally is important for the economy and entrepreneurship, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Small businesses – those that employ fewer than 500 people – make up 99.6 percent of companies in Illinois and employ 46 percent of the state’s private workforce, according to the administration.

“Small businesses are the engine of our national economy,” SBA Administrator Linda McMahon said in a news release. “We want entrepreneurs to feel confident taking a risk on starting or expanding their small businesses.

“Everyone wants businesses to grow and for people to be employed. Shopping small on Nov. 25 supports these men and women who create the foundation for strong, successful small businesses.”

Not all businesses on the Woodstock Square were having the best of luck Saturday, however.  

“It’s been really slow,” said Patti Zasada, owner of Soul Focus on Benton Street. “The day after Thanksgiving last year we did great. … Today has been like a normal Saturday. The other retailers I have talked to are down, too.”

In other areas, relatively warm and sunny weather might have contributed to consumers’ willingness to walk around downtown areas across the county and stop in to do some shopping.

In Crystal Lake, Mary Batson, owner of Out of the Box, said the shop was seeing great response, as typically expected.

“We do great on other December Saturdays, for sure, but this is our biggest one,” Batson said. “I think there is more awareness [for shopping local], but we definitely let our customers know. We bump up our Facebook posts and Instagram posts, and do any other advertising we can get it on.”

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