Holiday Central

Mom and Pops want to feel the love on Small Business Saturday

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Sandwiched in between two of the season's biggest shopping days—Black Friday and Cyber Monday—mom-and-pop retailers get their chance to strike holiday gold on Small Business Saturday.

The holiday, which is aimed at getting Americans to shop at local small businesses, was started by American Express in 2010. Sales have continued to climb, last year at $5.7 billion for the day, up from $5.5 billion in 2012, according to AmEx.

And at Phoenix Roze in Manhattan's West Village, owner Guy Rozenstrich is hoping the day will give his business a solid kickoff to the holiday shopping season. He hand makes all of his jewelry in the store, which he's owned since 2006, and says he has noticed increased foot traffic on Small Business Saturday each year.

Li-Lac Chocolates in New York City
Li-Lac Chocolates | Facebook

"The holiday season is crazy busy," Rozenstrich said. "It usually starts in December, but the last 10 days are crazy mad in here—we open early, stay late and just work, work, work. Small Business Saturday is really becoming an event for us."

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Li-Lac Chocolates in New York City is a 91-year-old company now owned by Anthony Cirone, who said the holidays usually account for nearly 20 percent of his annual sales. Small Business Saturday brings some added traffic, but he sees support all year long from his local neighborhood shoppers as well.

"We do get customers who come in specifically for that," Cirone said. "But we have generations of families who come to us because they know us and like to support local businesses here."

And good news for small stores like Phoenix Roze and Li-Lac Chocolates—this year, the National Retail Federation asked shoppers for the first time about Small Business Saturday, and found that nearly 75 percent of Americans said they will or may specifically shop for the event.

Rozenstrich is offering a promotion on his Instagram account, where he boasts more than 24,000 followers. He will give 10 percent off to anyone who comes in the store, or shops online on Small Business Saturday.

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"A lot of people want to shop small and know they want to support their local businesses," he said. "So we will do something special for them."

But not everyone is able to automatically bring in customers to shop small. Ron and Joan Fisch, who own Hampton House Furniture in Montclair, New Jersey, say big-ticket items are a tougher sell. The family business has been open for 67 years, and even promotions can't push consumers to spend more on highly discretionary items, like furniture, if they aren't ready to do so, the couple said.

"This is usually a pretty big quarter for us," Ron said. "People are getting ready for the holidays and like to spruce their homes up ... but we can't drive the customer into the store anymore. When they're ready to shop, they come in."

Joan said the business has felt the sting of more shoppers turning to online merchants than they had in the past.

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"People aren't really shopping that typical 'Main Street' store," she said. "The brick-and-mortar retail store isn't how they're shopping today. Obviously, the Internet has impacted all small businesses, and times have changed. We are moving forward and it's a different paradigm."

Joan said she hopes people remember the important role community businesses play in the overall economy when they are shopping this season.

"People say 'Oh I love this town, it's a community, I love the feel,' but I always say if people aren't going to patronize their stores, they're not going to have that small-town feeling," she said.