By Erika Webb
These things we know: you won't find that Peruvian goat horn flute or those hand-painted pheasant feather earrings at you-know-where-mart, and designated shopping days eventually catch on.
Small Business Saturday, or SBS, proved it nationally -- to the tune of $5.5 billion spent at independent businesses on Nov. 24.
But, locally, opinions about the impact of SBS varied, leaning heavily toward the not so much.
According to the second installment of the Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey, released by the National Federation of Independent Business and American Express, consumer awareness of SBS jumped to 67 percent from 34 percent in the two weeks prior to the holiday weekend. Nearly half of those who knew about SBS shopped "small" and made a big difference for local communities this year.
First conceived and promoted in 2010 by American Express, SBS was a response to merchants who felt lost in the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shuffle. This year American Express upped the ante offering cardholders a $25 credit on their American Express cards for shopping at a small business that day.
On Sept. 22, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution designating Nov. 24 as Small Business Saturday, supporting efforts to encourage consumers to shop locally and increase awareness of the value of locally owned small businesses and their impact on the U.S. economy.
Sandy Chavez, owner of Lace and Accessories in Downtown DeLand, said this year's SBS provided a huge boost for her.
"It was the best day we've had in a long time. It was busy all day long," she said.
Ms. Chavez said people came in looking for sales and she was prepared.
At the front of the store is a rack of Christine Alexander clothing, emblazoned with Swarovski crystals, which, she said, are "sparkly and great for the holidays." Cases of jewelry, key finders, purse hooks, perfume bottles, trinket boxes, sunglasses, handbags and other unique accessories offer customers a chance to be creative while unearthing that something-different gift.
"I did a special sale for Black Friday and for Small Business Saturday," Ms. Chavez said. "People came in and they kept my two girls busy all day long."
The American Express credit didn't seem to be the lure for people shopping at her store, though. She said the card was only used twice that day. Ms. Chavez said she has been aware of SBS, but she was unaware of the credit the company offered this year.
Increased awareness of the importance of patronizing small, local retailers; DeLand residents' appreciation of the downtown shopping district; and the general shopping mood that prevails after Thanksgiving were the main contributors to increased traffic and sales, Ms. Chavez said.
"The people in this town are proud of it. They want us (businesses) to stay," she said. "They bring their out-of-town guests when they come in. That's just how DeLand works."
One of those DeLand patrons, June Denson, was busy spending more money at Lace & Accessories a few days after SBS.
"I'm their favorite customer. I love this store," she said. "In fact, every single thing I have bought for my friends and family for Christmas, I have found in Downtown DeLand -- plus, two things for me."
An Orange City pawnshop also was hopping mid-week, following SBS. Central Florida Pawn Gun & Jewelry manager Michelle Eichel cited reasons other than retail promotions for the increase in business over recent weeks.
She said her store does not use American Express and did not participate in SBS.
Asked whether people are doing more buying or selling at the pawnshop she said more people are buying -- guns.
"Gun sales in all of America have gone up since the election," she said. "It's not as big a jump as it was after the last election, but gun sales are up."
For holiday presents?
She shook her head, no.
"It's because the Democrats are anti-gun," she said.
High Fly Hobbies in Daytona Beach was busy all weekend according to sales associate Mike Roy. But he's not attributing it to the American Express promotion.
"It was the Saturday after Black Friday and we tend to be pretty busy that day. It's always a big weekend for us," Mr. Roy said.
The full-service hobby shop sells RC planes, helicopters, boats and cars as well as educational toys and gifts, rockets, kites and hobby supplies.
Mr. Roy said he saw an increase in business this Thanksgiving weekend over last year.
Becky's Gifts & More in Ormond Beach has gifts for wine lovers, golfers, bikers and dog lovers in addition to jewelry, handbags, singing bears, candles, Badash Crystal, Melissa & Doug Girl's Apparel & Accessories, The Sea Garden Bath & Body Collection and Christmas items.
Owner Becky Cook said she is settling in at a new location on U.S. 1, so it remains to be seen how this holiday season will go.
"Of the people who came in over the weekend, I had three tell me they heard about Small Business Saturday and they thought of me," she said. "And I appreciated that. It's just tough for small businesses these days."
Debbie's Health Foods has two locations -- one in Orange City and one in Port Orange. Elizabeth Faulds, the Port Orange store manager, said she was not aware of SBS, or the accompanying American Express card promotion.
Ms. Faulds said she thinks the store did less business than usual over the busy holiday weekend.
"We did a lot of business prior to Thanksgiving but people were out taking advantage of the sales at department stores afterward," she said.
Monthly promotions like Rainbow Tuesdays, when all regularly-priced items are 20 percent off, and weekly Senior Day Thursdays when seniors get 10 percent off, are popular with the store's regular customers who shop there year-round for groceries and vitamins, she said.
"We do have gifts and candles as well as sulfite-free and organic wines," she said.
Ms. Faulds said the holiday trade seems to pick up later in the season when people purchase gift certificates and last minute items for meal preparation or gift giving.
Adele Aletti, president of the Merchants of Flagler Avenue Association in New Smyrna Beach, owns Gone Bonkers, women's clothing, accessories and gift shop.
She was definitely aware of the American Express promotion, but she doesn't think most people understood they were required to sign up online for the $25 credit. She said the company didn't really publicize that part of it and did not send any information about it to American Express vendors.
"It's a great promotion to remind people that we (small businesses) are the backbone of the community," she said. "Whether bars, restaurants or retailers, we collectively employ the most people in most areas, other than hospitals and city government."