Get ready to shop local on Small Business Saturday, which this year falls on Nov. 28.
Small Business Saturday, always observed on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, promotes shopping at brick-and-mortar stores that are locally owned.
With the COVID-19 pandemic keeping many people confined to their homes and turning to shopping online, shopping local is more vital than ever for the health of many local retailers.
“It’s important for the survival of many small business, and, yes, it’s more important than ever this year,” said Barry Plunkett, owner of Interiors Market in the Fondren neighborhood.
Plunkett encourages consumers to ask themselves the question: If I shop local, how many people can I possibly impact in my community?
“What some people forget when they shop local is that in many cases it’s not only positively impacting the owners but our providers, who are also small businesses,” he said. “We haven’t ordered 20 cases of something from China but we may have ordered two dozen of something made down the block.
“The profits stay in the neighborhood. My store is in Fondren, we live in Fondren, we shop in Fondren. Some of our employees live in the Belhaven area. The money we make is recirculated in our area.”
Local small businesses are at the core of every successful neighborhood, not just Fondren, he said. “That’s true whether you’re in the area by Maywood Mart or in Madison,” he said.
Plunkett said he and his employees strive to provide a shopping experience that is satisfying and joyful.
“A lot of people come in and say they’re here to lift their spirits, not just buy Christmas gifts,” he said, explaining that they enjoy the welcoming, leisurely environment at Interiors Market.
At Interiors Market, the holiday shopping season started slowly but has begun to pick up, Plunkett said, explaining that it was perhaps ramped up after Fondren Unwrapped, which this year was spread over four days instead of just one in order to lessen crowds.
“Certainly, by this time last year, our holiday traffic was pretty brisk,” he said. “Now it’s starting to pick up.”
Puckett considers small businesses have an advantage when it comes to being able to offer a safe shopping environment because they are small.
“The number of customers in the store at one time aren’t as great as at a large store,” he said. “Here at Interiors Market we can open our front door for circulation – and we do – to keep fresh air circulating throughout the store.
“We are very aware of the need to sanitize and we just installed a new credit card machine where you don’t insert your card but wave it over the top of the screen if your card has that capability. We as employees wear masks in the store and insist our customers wear masks.”
Interiors Market, like many small businesses, has turned to Facebook and Instagram to feature merchandise and encourage sales, he said, and offers curbside pickup.
“We put a lot of effort into gifts for men,” he said. “We’ve got beautiful handmade wooden bowls, carved wooden ducks, dog bookends, deer bookends. Those kinds of things have been popular. Art is big at Christmas and all of the holiday fragrances in candles, soaps and air fresheners are popular.”
Interiors Market plans to open on Sunday afternoons (Dec. 6, 13 and 20) from 1-5 p.m., with the goal of offering a memorable holiday experience, he said. A stringed quartet from the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra that will be socially distanced from each other and from shoppers will perform on Dec. 6.
Plunkett recalls how many years ago McRae’s department store at Meadowbrook Mart Shopping Center offered customers a pleasant holiday shopping experience on a Sunday afternoon with a local choir or two that would perform, and that’s what he hopes to emulate on the Sunday afternoons Interiors Market opens.
Albriton’s Jewelry in Jackson, a fourth-generation, family-owned business that has been in operation since 1920, like many small businesses, prides itself on offering customers the best possible service, said John Albriton of Albriton’s.
“People who shop local have a much more personal experience,” he said. “When someone shops with a local merchant, if there is a situation, they can return to the store and get it taken care of.”
Employees at Albriton’s are experienced and have the expertise to inform customers about diamonds and other gems and can answer any questions other they might have when they’re shopping, he said.
Employees at the store are practicing social distancing and other safety measures, he said.
“We’re ready for the Christmas season,” he said, “and have good selections.”
At the Everyday Gourmet in Ridgeland, employees are ready to help shoppers whether they want to visit the store in person or desire the least amount of interaction because of coronavirus, said Marlana Walters, owner of the Everyday Gourmet, a kitchen shop that also offers a bridal registry.
“We know that people want to shop and that they’re ready to get out and about,” she said. “Our store is big enough where anyone who wants to shop in person has room enough to move around.”
For anyone unable to shop in person, employees at the Everyday Gourmet can help with gift suggestions during a phone call, wrap the selected gifts and have them shipped or available at curbside, she said, noting that customers can drop off a personal note to include with the items being wrapped. “We can eliminate much contamination,” she said.
Walters suggests shoppers consider purchasing holiday china, perhaps just salad plates, to brighten their table settings in a year when little touches can make a difference. “Get a holiday mug even if you’re the only one in your house who drinks coffee,” she said.
Walters said she is already setting her table with her holiday china pattern instead of waiting until closer to Christmas, which she has done in the past.
Candles and napkins are still thoughtful gifts and dip mixes and soup mixes are welcomed for the comfort they bring, she said.
At Buffalo Peak Outfitters in Highland Village in Jackson, On running shoes are in high demand, said Travis McCain, manager and marketing director for the store.
“Free Fly Apparel has really taken off this year, as well as the return of Duckhead,” he said. “We’ve gotten several new brands such as Duer, Sawyer Products, Darn Tough and others that have already done very well. Of course, we have the usual Patagonia, North Face and Mountain Khaki, among others that people know and love.”
Employees at Buffalo Peak felt an increased emphasis on shopping local that occurred over the summer, he said. “I think people realized just how important to the community local businesses are and how it benefits everyone locally. I believe that will continue into the holidays,” McCain said.
Product knowledge and customer service set Buffalo Peak apart, he said.
“We stay committed to those things to set ourselves apart from the Big Box stores because we want our customers to have the best experience possible when they come in our store,” he said.
Buffalo Peak can provide expertise to shoppers who may be traveling and need clothing, shoes and other merchandise in order to be prepared.
“It helps that a lot of us have actually gone to a lot of these places that our customers are going,” McCain said.” So also having knowledge of the area that the customer is going to really helps the customer as well.”
Buffalo Peak requires shoppers and employees to masks while they are in the store and employees frequently clean the counter tops, credit card machines and other high contact areas, McCain said. “We are still offering curbside pickup for those that still may not be comfortable getting out and shopping yet,” he said.
Keith Kinkade, owner of Kinkade’s Fine Clothing, a men’s clothing store in Ridgeland, believes Small Business Saturday will be an important part of the Thanksgiving weekend for retailers.
“For us, we do a few things on Black Friday and those extend into Saturday,” he said. “On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, we have Santa Claus coming to the store to do photos.”
As a thank-you to customers, Kinkade’s planned to give away the week of Thanksgiving, as it has done for several years, pecan pies baked by Amy McNeill of Madison, It plans to bestow its customers with cinnamon rolls prepared by Susan Spencer of Indianola Dec. 19-22.
As a small business, Kinkade’s believes in giving back to the community that supports it, he said. For example, Kinkade’s sponsors high school football and high school baseball leagues.
Employees at the store are experienced and strive to do business the right way and to make the shopping experience memorable so they can earn the trust of customers, he said.
“We thank all of our customers for shopping with us,” Kinkade said. “We stand behind every product we sell. We want our customers to be completely satisfied. If something doesn’t live up to their expectations, we will replace it or make a refund if we need to.”
During the pandemic, employees at Kinkade’s are willing to assist customers with their gift lists in any way that is helpful, he said, telling the story of a grandmother who was easily able to shop for her grandson, as she has always done, but this year without leaving her home.
This holiday season, brands such as True Grit and johnnie-O will be popular as gifts as well as On athletic shoes, Kinkade said. “We have multiple styles in men’s and women’s shoes and are very knowledgeable about them,” he said.
Jude Muse, owner of The Treehouse Boutique in Fondren, said her business, like many small businesses, is all about serving customers and, during the holidays, is always willing to suggest gifts that will fit a recipient’s tastes.
“Great holiday gifts range from fabulous sweaters to great totes and pouches, which we can fill with eye masks, furry slippers, pj’s, candles and more,” she said.
Not to be overlooked is the impact of shopping at a small business, she said
“Small businesses are made up of the people who live in a community and their families,” she said. “They will support the community and give back. They are the ones that donate and sponsor local events and charities.”