by John Beaudoin

On Nov. 27, 2010, a small business revolution began in the United States. On that Saturday, Small Business Saturday was observed for the first time.

The credit card company American Express (a company that heavily promotes small-business shopping) created the event to counter Black Friday. Small Business Saturday aims to tout the benefits of shopping brick-and-mortar, family-owned retail establishments for the betterment of our communities and downtown areas.

Small Business Saturday is always observed on the Saturday immediately following Thanksgiving (Nov. 24 for 2018) during the busiest shopping periods of the year for retailers.

In downtown Lee’s Summit, Main Street Executive Director Donnie Rodgers said the event has grown significantly over the years and is part of a larger time frame of local holiday shopping that begins in October and extends through December.

Rodgers said in 2017, nearly $7 million in sales were recorded in November and December in downtown Lee’s Summit. And another $2.25 million in October, giving the district nearly $10 million in sales for the holiday season. The December numbers last year grew nearly a quarter-million dollars from 2016.

Total retail numbers (which includes shops, bars and restaurants) in downtown increased 13.6 percent in 2017 compared to 2016, and that trend has continued this year with retail up 13 percent so far in 2018.
Seth Allen, owner of Libations & Company in downtown Lee’s Summit, said last year’s Small Business Saturday was a major boon to his still-new and growing business. His retail operations specializing in high-end spirits and barware.

“Small Business Saturday is important to all small business owners in Lee’s Summit and across the country,” Allen said. “In a time of online shopping where a patron merely points, clicks and waits, the small business shopping event brings the customer to the products. The event puts the shops and the makers first, and the experience of interacting with passionate people is the bonus that a shopper will never receive online.”

Allen’s first Small Business Saturday in 2017 brought many new faces and shoppers into his store ““ many of whom didn’t know about his business before that day. He said many, now, are regular customers.

“A trip to Libations & Company is not your average retail experience,” he said. “Customers have the opportunity to learn about creating craft cocktails without the intimidation factor. Rather than just pointing and attempting to explain the complexities of flavors, customers can taste spirits, bitters and tonics before making a purchase. Online sites or big box retail stores cannot offer the intimacy that a small business can. Money spent local stays local, so shop small.”

Another spot where local customers mean an awful lot is Budget Blinds. The 16-year, three-generation-owned business said the annual Small Business Saturday event energizes downtown Lee’s Summit and kicks off their holiday season.
“At Budget Blinds, we are happily open every Saturday, but on Small Business Saturday our community is reminded to support local, family-owned businesses,” owner Debbie Stoddard said. “Our holiday window display of miniature trains, a Christmas village and a working ski-slope has become a destination for local shoppers and best of all, for children’s noses and finger prints pressed on the window in delight. Our doors are always open to share the joys of downtown Lee’s Summit with visitors.”

Promotion for Small Business Saturday in downtown Lee’s Summit will start soon for the Nov. 24 event, with the familiar blue and white logos appearing in windows, and the front-door mats showing up in front of retailers.

For more information on Small Business Saturday, visit americanexpress.com/us/small-business/shop-small/.

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