By BAYLIE EVANS | Wyoming Business Council – Ready or not, it’s that time of year again – cinnamon-spiced everything, Jingle Bells playing on the radio and Christmas trees popping up in shop windows everywhere.
Meanwhile, retailers ready themselves for Black Friday crowds.
However, smaller local shops can end up trampled in the stampede rushing toward the big-box stores’ mountains of inventory that’s marketed with millions in advertising.
With that struggle in mind, American Express started the Shop Small Saturday movement in 2010. The program offers free marketing and materials for local shops that “make our communities strong,” according to its website. The movement encourages cities to promote their small, local businesses on the Saturday after Black Friday each year. This year, that’s Nov. 30.
Nationally, the Shop Small program has grown each year. In 2018, American consumers reported spending a record-high of an estimated $17.8 billion at their local retailers and restaurants on Small Business Saturday, and 96% of consumers who reported participating in the day said the events inspired them to shop locally all year long, rather than just during the holiday season.
Many Wyoming communities have embraced Small Business Saturday. Below is just a sampling of the events happening on Main Streets around the state:
Laramie and Rock Springs are participating in the $2 Holiday Pledge. The program asks locals to trade in $100 for 50 $2 bills, which they pledge to spend locally. In addition to helping track the success of the movement, the $2 bills are meant to start conversations about supporting local business and serve as a reminder of the power of shoppers’ spending habits.
In Laramie, more than 70 downtown businesses are participating in some way. Most will open early, at 9 a.m., on Small Business Saturday. About 20 have agreed to extend their hours until 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and/or open for a few hours on Sunday afternoons through December. A handful of downtown restaurants are offering a brunch special on Small Business Saturday, as well.
“When we ask consumers to spend their money locally, we know it is a two-way street,” said Laramie Main Street director, Trey Sherwood. “Shopping local is a relationship between residents and business owners, each finding ways to support the other.”
Brand new this year, Laramie Main Street collaborated with Bond’s Brewing Co. to create a specialty beer for Small Business Saturday. The tasty Salted Caramel ale will be released at 9 a.m. that day.
Finally, shoppers can bring their receipts to the Laramie Main Street office on Nov. 30 or Dec. 2, and every $10 spent downtown is an entry to win one of three $100 downtown gift certificates.
Rawlins DDA/Main Street is partnering with the VFW for a kick-off breakfast from 7 to 10 a.m. at the Jeffrey Center. There, shoppers can pick up a passport and gather at least five signatures from participating downtown businesses for a chance to win $100 in Main Street Money.
The Rainbow Teton Entrepreneur Center will also be championing Small Business Saturday with the Grand Opening of the Winter Skate at the Park/Ice Rink. The ribbon-cutting will be held at noon, followed by skating till 6 p.m. Showing a receipt from a participating downtown business will earn shoppers half-off skate rentals that day.
In Sundance on Small Business Saturday, shoppers can fill in punch cards for purchases of $5 or more at participating retailers, with $50 in total purchases earning them a chance to win $250 in Sundance Bucks.
Also, a Ladies Night event will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. that day, starting at Off the Grid Hardware and Sports. Fill up your shopping punch card and be entered to win a great giveaway. Your $15 ($20 at the door) ticket includes a wine glass, gift bag, wine, hors d’oeuvre and other beverages.
Shoppers in Rock Springs can enjoy an alternative to Black Friday with Plaid Friday. The first 100 shoppers at First Bank on Nov. 29 will receive a free plaid shopping bag. People are encouraged to wear plaid to support shopping local and snap a selfie at the selfie station.
Santa will arrive downtown on Small Business Saturday, kicking off the season with free downtown carriage rides and extended shopping hours.
“Shopping locally is important for our retailers’ bottom lines, of course, but this movement is about even more than that.” said Chad Banks with the Rock Springs Main Street/Urban Renewal Agency. “It’s about bringing the community together to support each other, and just enjoying the spirit of the season. What better way to do that than by browsing the shops downtown?”