Small business owners across the Triangle touted local and national efforts promoting Small Business Saturday and the customers that heeded the shop small message, but reported mixed sales results compared to last year.
“It was great. We had a really great steady flow of new folks coming in all day long,” said Cynthia Deis, owner of Ornamentea, a craft and jewelry making supply store in Raleigh’s Glenwood South. “We were very happy with Small Business Saturday.”
The annual event, tucked between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, was started in 2010 by American Express as a way to help increase traffic in independent shops on one of the biggest shopping weekends of the year. American Express offered a $25 credit to registered cardholders who spent that same amount at a small business that carries its cards.
According to a survey released Monday by the National Federation of Independent Business and American Express, consumer awareness of Small Business Saturday jumped to 67 percent from 34 percent just two weeks ago. Of those aware, 47 percent shopped on Small Business Saturday, according to the survey.
U.S. consumers who were aware of Small Business Saturday spent a total of $5.5 billion with independent merchants, according to the survey.
American Express said card member transactions at small-business merchants rose approximately 21 percent compared to last year’s Small Business Saturday.
Deis hasn’t compared the in-store sales to last year’s Small Business Saturday, but the store did experience a 7 percent increase in actual customer transactions on Saturday compared to last year, she said.
Local efforts, such as Durham's Sustain-a-Bull and Shop Local Raleigh increased the day’s momentum by raising awareness about the benefits of shopping locally, merchants said.
On Saturday, Shop Local Raleigh’s website, which includes a holiday shopping guide, had 12,000 page views, a 22 percent increase over a typical day, said Jennifer Martin, executive director for the organization, an arm of the Greater Raleigh Merchants Association
Sales for sister stores Joint Venture Jewelry and Peachy Keen, both at Cary’s Harrison Point Shopping Center, doubled on Small Business Saturday compared to last year, said Jen Hankin, co-owner of the stores. Black Friday sales saw a 2.5 increase compared to last year, she said.
In Durham, Ninth Street stores Vaguely Reminiscent, which sells unique gifts and women’s clothing and accessories, and the Regulator Bookshop also reported increases.
Vaguely Reminiscent owner Carol Anderson said that Saturday sales increased 30 percent compared to last year.
“There was a huge bump in American Express sales,” Anderson said. Anderson attributed the overall sales increase to a combination of Small Business Saturday and nonprofit business alliance Sustain-a-Bull’s Shop Independent Durham campaign, which extends through Sunday.
Regulator Bookshop owner Tom Campbell said that in addition to a big bump in in-store sales, the store also had the most online orders placed on their website on Saturday for any single day ever.
"One of our regular customers was out of town, but emailed ahead of time that she was going to call in her order to have it count for the Sustain-a-Bull sale," Campbell said. "And she did indeed call in her order—from Kabul, Afghanistan."
Bob Jones, owner of Savory Spice Shop in Raleigh’s Lafayette Village, said Small Business Saturday American Express transactions were up, but overall sales declined 19 percent compared to last year, Jones said.
“It was good,” Jones said. “It was not as good as last year.”
Jones said he isn’t sure what caused the decrease in sales as they increased their online promotion of the day on Facebook and Shop Local Raleigh. The decline could be related to an issue on American Express’ shop local website in which the Savory Spice Shop didn’t appear to show up on the map of local small businesses, but came up if someone specifically searched for the store, Jones said.
Representatives of Adore Boutiques, designer consignment stores in Cary and Raleigh, and Clothes Hound in Raleigh reported that some customers came in for Small Business Saturday, but Black Friday turned out to be the banner day.
“We were busy (on Small Business Saturday), but our huge day at both stores surprisingly was Black Friday,” said Nancy Zura Alinovi, with Adore Boutiques.