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Local shops stand out on Small Business Saturday

Companies try to capitalize on holiday shopping dollars

Small Business Saturday events brought Betsy Belongia (at right) to the Oilerie boutique store on Bluemound Road. Store associate Lori Hass helps her select a gift box of custom-blended oils.

Small Business Saturday events brought Betsy Belongia (at right) to the Oilerie boutique store on Bluemound Road. Store associate Lori Hass helps her select a gift box of custom-blended oils. Photo By John O'Hara

Nov. 26, 2012

Nestled between the doorbusters of Black Friday and Internet super sales on Cyber Monday is a day dedicated to putting small businesses front and center during the busiest shopping season of the year.

Small Business Saturday gives locally owned businesses a chance to stand out and allows consumers to support their neighborhood entrepreneurs. American Express started the annual event in 2010 on the Saturday following Thanksgiving to encourage holiday shoppers to step outside of the big-box.

"Small Business Saturday has become the ceremonial kick-off to the holiday shopping season for small business owners across the country," said Susan Sobbott, president at American Express OPEN. "Small Business Saturday provides an opportunity to harness the nation's enthusiasm for small business and celebrate their impact on local communities and the national economy."

This year, American Express said it would give $25 to its cardholders who registered for the event and shopped at local businesses Saturday.

Jackie Zack owns The Oilerie, located in The Plaza at Calhoun and Bluemound roads. It's an olive oil bar with a variety of food and skin products made from olive oil. Zach participated in Saturday's event and said it allows her independently owned store to compete in a market of chain and online retailers.

"Small Business Saturday places the focus on how important small businesses are to the economy. The employees live and work here, and the money we collect stays here," Zach said. "People are making a conscious effort to shop local; I hear that from my customers all the time."

Laurie Winden drove from Elkhorn specifically for oil from Zach's store.

"I've been coming here a couple of years now. I like small, quaint places," Winden said. "Elkhorn doesn't have shopping like this. Whenever we run out of oil, we come here. "

A survey released Nov. 19 by the National Federation of Independent Business said that 70 percent of last year's shoppers who participated in SBS planned to spend the same amount or more this - an average of $100 per shopper.

American Express said the top reasons consumers support small businesses are that they value the contributions small businesses make to their community and better customer service.

Men's clothier Squire Fine Men's Apparel in the Sendik's Towne Centre participated in SBS. David Matsudaira, store president and CEO, said small businesses are able to better cater to the needs of each customer than a larger retailer is.

"At stores like this, customers can feel like they are special and not just a wallet," Matsudaira said. "That's the strength of a small business store."

The survey conducted by NFIB found that restaurants are the number one destination for consumers on Small Business Saturday, followed by bakeries and clothing stores.

Frank Hornick owns Silver Spur on Watertown Plank Road in Elm Grove, a Texas Smokehouse barbecue restaurant. Participating for a second year in a row, Hornick said the event sets a positive atmosphere for small businesses facing a tough economy.

"The last few years have been tough, but this year we are starting to see the numbers beat previous years," he said. "Small Business Saturday means the money you spend comes back to the places that own businesses and pay property taxes in the community."

American Express provided 10,000 business owners $100 worth of free Facebook advertising to help drive online buzz and get customers into their stores.

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