Think small, business leaders urge

For the sixth year, Small Business Saturday is on tap to shift shoppers’ focus from big box stores to local merchants.

The event, scheduled for Saturday, November 28, the day after “Black Friday,” was launched in 2010 by American Express, and has snowballed. By 2012, 73.9 million people had absorbed the message of the day sufficiently to head out to their local stores to do holiday shopping, with $14.3 billion spent at small businesses on Small Business Saturday, 2014.

This year, using the hashtag #shopsmall, Amex is urging local merchants groups to get in on the act, organizing such events as scavenger hunts, creating passports that shoppers can use to track their stops, and encouraging them to take selfies as they hunt for that perfect something for those special someones.

The event is beneficial, say local business leaders.

“We ride the wave of the American Express promotion and the national trend,” noted Robert Howe, the president of the Merchants of Third Avenue. “We think people should realize the implications of shopping locally. Strong local avenues make for strong and vibrant communities.

“This isn’t something that Bay Ridge should take for granted,” Howe went on, recalling store vacancies on both Third and Fifth Avenue in the recent past. “It is why Bay Ridge is a great, stable community.”

“Neighborhoods are usually as strong as their commercial strips,” concurred Renee Giordano, the executive director of the Sunset Park Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District, who said that, for Small Business Saturday, the BID will be running a free trolley for shoppers between 35th and 64th Streets from 1-5 p.m.

“Customers can get on and off as often as they want,” Giordano explained, adding that the trolley would also be running on Friday, November 27 and Sunday, November 29, and again on the weekend of Friday through Sunday, December 19-21.

In addition, said Giordano, the BID has gotten a permit for businesses to hold sidewalk sales on Small Business Saturday, “so some merchants will be putting merchandise out.”

Beyond such amenities, she noted, there are other advantages to shopping at local mom and pop stores. “You get more personalized service,” Giordano stressed.

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