Small Business Saturday, now in its seventh year since credit card company American Express launched it in 2010 as a way to support mom-and-pop shops, has been embraced by Henry County retailers and shoppers.
All the city Main Street programs promoted Shop Small as an alternative to Black Friday, the decades-old tradition of mall shopping and big-box patronage observed the day after Thanksgiving.
In Stockbridge, the same number of downtown businesses participated as last year, 30, but with a difference.
Main Street Stockbridge Program Assistant Lisa Fareed said there were few repeat participants from 2016, but the reaction was much more enthusiastic.
“It was actually the most successful one we’ve had,” she said about the city’s four-year record with the promotion. “There was a lot more foot traffic.”
Even a non-traditional holiday vendor, Power House Termite and Pest Control, created an outdoor display to support the effort, offering a $50 discount, and reported selling services to passersby, Fareed said.
Pedestrians came to look at decorated windows, Fareed said, and ventured through the merchants’ doors, like at home furnishings retailer BarnBeautiful, the downtown’s newest shop, which reported “phenomenal” traffic.
“They never had that many people in the store at once,” she said.
Social media played a role, as merchants and city council members posted photos throughout the day.
So did a new strategy, suggested by the credit card company, involving shoppers in getting stickers from stores, pasting them into a booklet and then entering a contest for a gift basket, set to be awarded Dec. 1.
It served as an introduction to shoppers who discovered new places they may patronize again in the future.
“The passport really worked well,” Fareed said. “Customers had something in their hand. We passed them out a week in advance. The people planned on where they would go. They literally went to places they had never been before.”
Over 800 shopping passports were printed and distributed.
Small Business Saturday support rippled outside the downtown area, she said, to the Drip-Thru Coffee kiosk on Highway 138.
“They normally get heavy traffic on weekday mornings,” Fareed said. “They had as much traffic as they would on a Monday.”
Stockbridge Main Street Program Manager Kira D. Harris-Braggs said several businesses reported “waves of shoppers” and packed shops.
“I don’t have percentages but sales were markedly higher,” she said.
Some examples were C&L Family Hair Salon, which had a customer appreciation celebration that was “high-spirited and well-attended,” Harris-Braggs said, and Upscale Fashion, which gave out over 30 Shop Small promotional bags.
“This is very high volume for this particular store,” Harris-Braggs said. “In order to receive a bag, shoppers had to make at least a $25 purchase.”
Holey Sweet Donuts also had a great interest in its specialty donuts, especially their Red Velvet variety, she said.
She said hundreds of customers were shopping, dining and receiving special services, but convenient parking was plentiful.
“Because our small businesses were located in the downtown area and throughout the city, parking was not a problem,” Harris-Braggs said. “Shoppers came in waves to different areas at different times.”
Main Street Hampton Director Denise McKay said participants there were pleased.
“They said they were up over last year, so that’s really good,” she said. “All of my businesses were very happy.”
On the McDonough Square, home décor and accessories store Secret Garden owner Joan Wheat said Small Business Saturday sales were flat but foot traffic was up.
“Lots of people took advantage of our store specials and we completely ran out of the Vera Bradley totes we gave away with a $100 purchase,” she said. “Everyone seemed to be having a good time and most made it a point to say they were shopping today to show their support for small businesses.”
In Locust Grove, gourmet shop Olive In A Bottle had about 10 percent more shoppers and higher sales than expected, owner Kathy Carroll reported, and a full parking lot.
Crumbles by Nicole not only has a celebrity chef in owner and baker Nicole Silva, but the Shop Small promotion also brought in customers.
Sales were higher than she anticipated by about 10 percent, selling out its gluten-free cakes and cookies.
“We had 50 gift bags and handed them all out,” Silva said.
Traditional shoppers helped Tanger Outlets in Locust Grove have a festive kickoff to the holiday shopping season, General Manager Holly R. Duffey said.
“Tanger shoppers came out this weekend to find great deals on merchandise from their favorite brands all in one convenient location,” she said. “Moonlight Madness and Black Friday shopping have always been exciting events for our shoppers and this year was no exception, based on the lines of customers waiting to get into stores, the full parking lot, the smiling faces and the hands filled with shopping bags.”
The outlet mall has over 69 brands of apparel and home goods, which Duffy said provided great variety.
“We have something for everyone on the shopping list,” she said.
While brands have online storefronts as well, Duffy said, “shopping in store allows our customers to experience in-season, on-trend merchandise at fashionable savings in person.”