In recent years, the mad rush of post-Thanksgiving sales promotions has been tempered by the steady rise of online shopping.
This year, it will be further tempered by concern over the coronavirus, as the U.S. is in the midst of a nationwide surge in positive cases.
That makes Small Business Saturday all the more important for local merchants — there are roughly 30.7 million small businesses in the U.S., according to the federal Small Business Administration — who are facing a holiday shopping season unlike any other in recent memory.
“Usually, Small Business Saturday is huge for us,” said Matt Falenski, owner at Laurel Highlands Meadery, with locations in Irwin and Greensburg. “There’s a lot of small businesses that are owned by families, and any day like this is really big for us.”
As a business offering a specialty product — mead is a spirit made by fermenting honey, with origins dating back to 3,000 B.C. — Falenski said that in addition to promoting his and other small businesses, he also spends a fair amount of time explaining his product to customers.
“Our location in Irwin has done a lot of events where we talk to people about the product and the process,” he said. “And we try to promote small businesses all throughout the year. Shopping at a small business helps pay for a kid to go to summer camp; it’s not just money that’s going to some corporate office somewhere. It’s pretty much being spent in the community where you live.”
Small Business Saturday is a promotion started in 2010 by American Express, with businesses across the nation taking part in its “Shop Small” initiative.
Eric Parco, owner of PA Vapor on Route 22 in Murrysville, as well as the Bean Counter coffee shop next door, said he’s hoping for strong sales over the whole weekend.
“We probably do better on Black Friday than Small Business Saturday,” Parco said. “It might even be better this year because the big guys spread their (Black Friday sales) out so much.”
Parco said a bump in business would be great, but his goal has been building a loyal following by focusing on customer service.
“We make sure to take care of everybody,” he said.
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