The idea has caught on and the Saturday after Thanksgiving has become something of a national holiday, with small-town businesses around the country encouraging their customers to shop locally by offering special deals and bargains.
The Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Area Chamber of Commerce has been promoting the event since mid-November and Executive Director Lisa Konicki said the chamber is hoping for a large turnout.
To showcase support for the event, chamber members will visit local businesses on that day to award 20 $10 gift certificates to different paying customers they encounter.
Different criteria will be used to decide the winners: A customer could win a gift card by being one of the first buyers wearing a holiday hat, for example, or the first to show a Christmas list.
Photos of the winners will appear on the chamber’s Facebook page.
The gift cards can be used at any one of the participating chamber member stores.
“It’s a great gift because you can use it at so many places,” Konicki said.
“Anything from getting taxes done to your car muffler fixed to a local restaurant qualifies.”
In preparation for the event, Konicki said the chamber provided local businesses with a list of American Express-sponsored suggestions on how to encourage shoppers to focus their efforts locally.
Tips include sidewalk sales, scavenger hunts, and discounts and specials.
Constant Contact, a national marketing company, also developed a tool kit designed for interested small businesses, complete with a guide on promoting local services on this particular day and throughout the year.
Konicki said that while she recognizes the popularity of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, she hopes the Saturday event can show shoppers a more community-based alternative.
“People are conditioned nowadays to go and support national chain stores,” she said.
“That’s not something we can necessarily compete with, but the Small Business Saturday provides a way to get folks to remember the importance of supporting their local business community.”
Konicki also said that shopping at local businesses supports local jobs and keeps the benefits of economic activity within the community.
Bill Nigrelli, co-owner of Nigrelli’s Jewelry on High Street, said his business will offer storewide sales on Saturday, as well as 10 percent off all Alex and Ani merchandise.
Nigrelli said the store promoted these specials through newspaper and radio advertisements, as well as signs outside of their store.
“Hopefully, because it’s been promoted a lot this year, more people will come,” he said. “I think a lot of small businesses are participating this year.”
Down the street at Herbwise Naturals, owner Susan Adams said she will be participating in Small Business Saturday for the first time this year, offering 20 percent off travel pillows and Bucky Warmers, scented pillows that can be heated or chilled.
Other Tiger bookstore is in its second year offering deals on the day.
Shoppers will get 10 percent off everything in the store, a number that celebrates the bookstore’s 10th anniversary this year, according to bookseller Samantha Noble.
Noble said the idea behind the event is important for both the bookstore and its customers.
“It encourages people to shop local, which is always a good thing,” she said. “It’s also great to be able to give back to our customers. They do a lot to keep us in business.”
For more information on Small Business Saturday, visit the chamber’s website at westerlychamber.org, or the Facebook page at facebook.com/GWPACC