Sandwiched in between the largest traditional shopping days of the year is Small Business Saturday, which carries significant importance this year.

As the coronavirus pandemic kept crowds thin at malls and stores across the country on Black Friday, and a surge in online shopping predicted to last well past Cyber Monday, local retailers say the spirit of today’s Small Business Saturday should linger throughout this holiday season.

“Do your holiday shopping in New Braunfels and strengthen our local economy by keeping your hard-earned money in our community,” said the Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce, urging all to “Shop local on Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and throughout the year.”

In a joint effort with the Downtown Association and Gruene Historic District, the Greater New Braunfels Chamber unveiled a new website, www.ClickNBFirst.com, where shoppers can link to more than 50 local retail websites and peruse gift guides and discounts throughout the holiday season.

Stephen Brockman, the Chamber’s vice president of leadership and small business programs, pointed out two major impacts of shopping local.

“Sixty-eight cents of each dollar stays in the community, compared to 45¢ when you shop at a national chain — that means 23% more of your dollar stays here,” he said. “The second, which is something I learned this year, is that on average, local business owners give to charitable causes at twice the rate of national chains.”

“When you look at all of these local business owners, they are the ones that come out to fundraising events we had last week. They are the ones that are forking out the big money that helps our non-profits.

“With this year being as tough as it has been on small businesses, we want to make it as easy as possible on people to shop local businesses,” he said. 

David Potter, who along with his wife Jill Hall-Potter

owns The Gruene Olive Tasting Room, agreed, saying the small part of Small Business Saturday shouldn’t get lost in the shuffle. 

“Right now, keeping the mom and pop businesses open is what supports the economy,” he said. “It’s nice that we can all go to H-E-B and Walmart, but that’s not the community, you know. It’s the little stores, it’s the community of the neighborhoods and the cities and towns we live in. So we definitely say that’s the importance [of Small Business Saturday] is that people come and help their neighbor as everybody comes together.”

Jill said that extends beyond the mom and pops who own many of the small businesses.

“One of our employees makes our masks, and another makes our bath bombs, so it’s not just like the people who own the store but everybody working in there, she said. “Even our son is working in the back, so we’re really a family business, and you can feel the difference.”

For Small Business Saturday the store is offering 10% off any one item. 

“It gets pretty busy and we’re always happy to see our customers,” Jill said.

Black Friday/Cyber Monday

Normally, Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year, drawing millions of shoppers eager to get started on their holiday spending. 

Thanksgiving Day hit a new online shopping record as spending reached $5.1 billion, up 21.5% compared to a year ago, according to Adobe Analytics, which measures sales at 80 of the top 100 U.S. online retailers.

However, the day after Thanksgiving has been losing its luster as the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season for the past several years, with more and more retailers offering holiday discounts throughout November and December. 

Still, Black Friday was projected to generate $10 billion in online sales, a 39% bump from the year ago period, according to Adobe, with Cyber Monday, the Monday following Thanksgiving, forecast to remain the biggest single online shopping day of the year with $12.7 billion in sales, a 35% jump over 2019. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention labeled shopping in crowded stores during the holidays as a “higher risk” activity. 

The CDC has recommended online shopping, visiting outdoor markets or using curbside pickup, where workers deliver orders in parking lots. 

Many retailers closed their doors on Thanksgiving Day but planned to beef up safety protocols to reassure wary customers this weekend. But locals say they are employing all of the above measures and more during Small Business Saturday, founded in 2010 to encourage more holiday shopping dollars spent with small businesses. 

“We want to give shoppers a single location to buy their holiday gifts from local businesses,” said April Howard, chair of the Chamber’s the Small Business Week committee.

Holidays in Gruene

Crystal Kinman, Gruene Historic District marketing director, said retail traffic has “been slower than usual” ahead of the holiday season. She said some of the events have been tweaked to include COVID-19 protocols, but the overall message is the same.

“We’re trying to promote stores, their web sites and get them out there to the public, which is very important this year,” she said. “This year is a time for everybody to remember the importance of spending locally.”

Brockman and Kinman said they realize many prefer shopping online and they remind many local retailers are also online, with some delivering goods faster than national retailers.

“They can do the same thing here at home to help our local economy,” Kinman said.

Gruene will kick off its holiday season at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, with Pony Express riders delivering yuletide greetings from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, read by 22nd District Court Judge Bruce Boyer.

“It’s usually about the kids petting and riding the horses, which we’re not going to have this year,” she said. “But the riders will still ride and the proclamation will be read. We won’t impose on the U.S. Post Office to have them stamp envelopes, but we’ll have folks guarding the mailbox to make sure their messages get delivered.”

Kinman said Gruene’s season will feature the usual holiday features, some differently.

“Cowboy Kringle will still take photos with the kids, but by appointment only,” she said. 

Many retailers will be extending shopping hours, and Gruene Hall will feature the usual holiday headliners.

Kringle Cash coupons, offering discounts throughout town, and daily holiday events are posted at www.gruenetexas.com.

“But this is not just about Small Business Saturday, it’s about the entire holiday shopping season — and the significance of spending local dollars here in our community,” she said.

Shopping small, big impact 

A survey of local businesses indicated COVID-19 led to a 63% median revenue loss between 2019 and 2020. Many venues were saved with federal, state and local grants and programs.

When the pandemic moved Small Business Week to September, Brockman noted the nation’s 30.7 million small businesses employ 1.5 million throughout the country, including more than 55,000 in Comal County. 

Brockman said the spirit of Small Business Week and Small Business Saturday should be celebrated — not only on those occasions but throughout the year. 

“Those two impacts — the amount of each dollar staying in the community and what small businesses contribute in the community,” he said. “That tells a how big of an impact the entrepreneurial spirit has on the community — and why we need these folks more than ever.”

Mikala Compton and the Associated Press also contributed to this report.

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