Satur­day puts small re­tail­ers in the spot­light

Many down­town busi­nesses in Ch­ester County and the re­gion are tak­ing part on Nov. 26

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - BUSINESS - By Brian McCullough bm­c­cul­lough@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @wc­dai­ly­lo­cal on Twit­ter and Donna Rovins drovins@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Mer­cBiz on Twit­ter

The area’s small towns are lin­ing up for a slice of the early Christ­mas shop­ping sea­son pie.

Many busi­ness sup­port or­ga­ni­za­tions and in­di­vid­ual busi­nesses are tak­ing part in to­mor­row’s Small Busi­ness Satur­day, a national ef­fort to get con­sumers onto Main Street USA to do their shop­ping.

“Peo­ple are ex­cited about this shop­ping sea­son,” said Mark Yoder, pres­i­dent of the Greater West Ch­ester Cham­ber of Com­merce, which has sup­ported busi­nesses in the bor­ough par­tic­i­pat­ing in the pro­mo­tion for about four years. “I don’t know how to ex­plain in ex­actly, it just feels like peo­ple are more ex­cited than in past years.”

Ac­cord­ing to the Small Busi­ness Satur­day web­site, there are a num­ber of busi­ness sup­port or­ga­ni­za­tions in Ch­ester County and the re­gion help­ing re­tail­ers mark the day. In ad­di­tion to the West Ch­ester cham­ber, 2016 Neigh­bor­hood Cham­pi­ons of the pro­gram in­clude: 2nd Cen­tury Al­liance in Coatesville, Down­ing­town Main Street As­so­ci­a­tion, Ox­ford Main Street and Ox­ford Arts Al­liance, Phoenixville Re­gional Cham­ber of Com­merce, West White­land Town­ship Park and Recre­ation, and the Ch­ester County Cham­ber of Busi­ness & In­dus­try.

For 2nd Cen­tury, the day rep­re­sents an op­por­tu­nity to have re­tail­ers in Coatesville work to­gether to draw traf­fic to the city, said So­nia Huntzinger,

economic de­vel­op­ment ad­min­is­tra­tor of the busi­ness sup­port or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“This is the first time Coatesville has re­ally had a chance to do this in an or­ga­nized fashion,” said Huntzinger, who started in Coatesville in March. The ef­fort this year is con­cen­trated on Lin­coln High­way be­tween First and Third av­enues.

“I’ve had huge success with this in other com­mu­ni­ties,” Huntzinger noted on Wed­nes­day. “It’s been a while since they’ve col­lec­tively worked to­gether so I’m re­ally looking for­ward to see­ing how it works out.”

Re­tail­ers in towns that have par­tic­i­pated in Small Busi­ness Satur­day in re­cent years have seen sales in­crease by dou­ble dig­its over sales of the pre­vi­ous year, she added.

“This is such a big day for them,” Huntzinger said.

As in other towns, Down­ing­town has been ac­tive in re­cent weeks on so­cial me­dia drum­ming up sup­port for the bor­ough’s re­tail­ers, said Steve Plaugher, Down­ing­town Main Street Manager.

That, com­bined with the national Small Busi­ness Satur­day tele­vi­sion ad­ver­tise­ments, has brought more traf­fic to Down­ing­town in re­cent years, Plaugher said.

“We en­cour­age all of our stores that are nor­mally open Satur­day to take part,” he said. “It puts our busi­nesses on the radar.”

In West Ch­ester, mean­while, the bor­ough plans to ad­dress any park­ing con­cerns vis­i­tors might have.

Park­ing is free un­til 5 p.m. at the on-street me­ters and lots. The Jus­tice Cen­ter Garage at 220 W. Mar­ket St. also is free all day.

Small Busi­ness Satur­day was started in 2010 by Amer­i­can Ex­press to rec­og­nize and en­cour­age shop­pers to pa­tron­ize lo­cal small busi­ness own­ers — shops, restau­rants, bak­eries, cof­fee shops, in­sur­ance agents, pet ser­vices and other busi­nesses in the com­mu­nity.

The event has grown steadily as more peo­ple have be­come aware and more com­mu­ni­ties put the fo­cus on the day. Last year, a record es­ti­mated 95 mil­lion Amer­i­cans shopped at small busi­nesses on Small Busi­ness Satur­day. This year, con­sumers plan to spend record amounts at small busi­nesses, ac­cord­ing to the re­sults from the fifth annual Small Busi­ness Satur­day Con­sumer In­sights Sur­vey, con­ducted by the National Fed­er­a­tion of In­de­pen­dent Busi­nesses and Amer­i­can Ex­press.

Nearly half of the re­spon­dents (48 per­cent) who are aware of Small Busi­ness Satur­day and who plan to shop said they ex­pect to spend more on the day this year than last year. Two- thirds of re­spon­dents said they plan to spend at least $100 on the day.

“We’re try­ing to get peo­ple to shop lo­cally down­town or in the bor­ough. The econ­omy grows with peo­ple sup­port­ing lo­cal busi­nesses,” said Sheila Du­gan, Pottstown’s Main Street Manager. The Pottstown Down­town Im­prove­ment District Au­thor­ity is a sup­porter of the ini­tia­tive. “If you make a pur­chase at a big box store it helps that com­pany’s head­quar­ters. It’s a con­scious mind­set we need to look at in or­der to im­prove the economics of our com­mu­nity.”

Du­gan said that she has no­ticed an in­crease in down­town busi­nesses get­ting in­volved in Small Busi­ness Satur­day — post­ing pro­mo­tional ma­te­ri­als and of­fer­ing spe­cials to bring cus­tomers in.

“Each year gets a lit­tle bit eas­ier to pro­mote and talk about, and this year we’re fo­cus­ing on think­ing lo­cal,” Du­gan said. “How can they sup­port the restau­rants? Go buy gift cards. That sup­ports and pro­motes the busi­nesses and brings peo­ple back.”

This is the third year the TriCounty Area Cham­ber of Com­merce has been a Neigh­bor­hood Cham­pion for Small Busi­ness Satur­day.

“We use it as an op­por­tu­nity to pro­mote shop­ping lo­cally to our cham­ber mem­bers. It is about build­ing aware­ness — on the part of the con­sumer as well as the busi­nesses,” said Eileen Dautrich, pres­i­dent of the TriCounty Area Cham­ber of Com­merce. “For or­ga­ni­za­tions like ours and Sheila’s (PDIDA), it’s be­ing able to get the word out to tell peo­ple there’s a way to sup­port and pro­mote lo­cal busi­ness.”

Amer­i­can Ex­press pro­vides ma­te­ri­als that can be dis­trib­uted to busi­nesses to help them pro­mote the day.

Among the ma­te­ri­als are can­vas shop­ping bags, stick­ers, pens, posters, but­tons, tent cards and bal­loons.

“There’s also a heart, where the busi­ness owner can print the busi­ness name in and en­cour­age peo­ple to hold the heart up and take a selfie and pro­mote it on so­cial me­dia,” Dautrich added.

The Coven­try Mall will par­tic­i­pate in Small Busi­ness Satur­day this year, or­ga­niz­ing a dis­play in con­junc­tion with some lo­cal small busi­nesses, ac­cord­ing to Steve Bat­ten, mall manager.

From noon to 5 p.m. on Satur­day, dis­play ta­bles will be set up through­out the mall.

Ac­cord­ing to a news re­lease, Coven­try Mall “wants peo­ple to be aware of the lo­cal busi­nesses both inside and out­side of the mall that pro­vide var­i­ous prod­ucts and ser­vices to area.”

A Down­ing­town mer­chant pre­pares for this year’s Small Busi­ness Satur­day in a Down­ing­town Main Street As­so­ci­a­tion Face­book post­ing.

DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA FILE PHOTO

Gay Street in West Ch­ester is shown on a re­cent Small Busi­ness Satur­day.

A poster trum­pet­ing Small Busi­ness Satur­day hangs in Coatesville, as shown on 2nd Cen­tury Al­liance’s Face­book page.

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