Holiday shoppers intent on spending their money at local, independent merchants instead of national chains were encouraged to forgo Black Friday and participate in the fifth annual Small Business Saturday.
Local business organizations in Portland, Brunswick and other cities across the U.S. promoted the day as a more responsible alternative to Black Friday that would keep consumers’ money in the communities where they live.
In Portland and elsewhere, Small Business Saturday also was tied to fundraising, with participating local businesses pledging a portion of their sales revenue for the day to various charities.
In Brunswick, special events Saturday included the Artisan Pop-Up Shop, a one-day-only store at 90 Maine St. organized by the Brunswick Downtown Association, which featured more than 20 local artists and small businesses selling a variety of goods. Participating merchants put up signs and wore buttons urging passers-by to “shop small.”
Missy Grillo, the downtown group’s membership and events coordinator, said the group decided to use Small Business Saturday as an opportunity to promote the town’s many artisans.
“We have such a great art community located in Brunswick,” Grillo said, adding that it’s important for the community to support small businesses. “They are the basis of our economy here in Brunswick.”
Brunswick artist Maria Castellano-Usery was one of the many merchants selling handmade art, crafts, jewelry, clothing and other items at the Artisan Pop-Up Shop. Castellano-Usery specializes in acrylic painting and mixed-media artwork, which she usually sells at art shows and on her website.
“I heard there was a free space to show my work, so I jumped on it as soon as I heard about it,” she said.
Pop-Up shoppers included Roxanna Jones of Harpswell who purchased a cutting board from a local woodworker.
A small-business owner herself, Jones said she understands the importance of patronizing local, independent merchants.
“They keep our community strong and vibrant,” she said.
A 2011 study by the left-leaning Maine Center for Economic Policy found that in general, every $100 spent at locally owned businesses in Portland generated an additional $58 in local economic activity, such as money spent to pay local employees or suppliers.
By comparison, it found that every $100 spent at a national chain store in Portland generated only $33 in local economic activity.
“Money spent at local businesses generates as much as a 76 percent greater return to the local economy than money spent at national chains,” the center’s 2011 report said. “These findings are consistent with similar studies conducted in other states and can vary by business type.”
Portland’s Downtown District organized a three-day marketplace Friday through Sunday to promote local artisans and businesses at the Portland Flea-for-All, at 125 Kennebec St.
It also organized a Small Business Saturday fundraiser in which the association’s member businesses pledged to give a portion of their Saturday sales to a charity.
Litty Parker, co-owner of the women’s boutique Tavecchia at 52 Exchange St., said local businesses chose Day One substance abuse services in Portland as their designated local charity.
Parker said Tavecchia used storefront signs, Facebook and the email marketing service Constant Contact to promote its Small Business Saturday deals, which included 25 percent off all store items.
The boutique is a member of Portland Buy Local, another local merchants group that did its own Small Business Saturday promotions, she said.
Portland Buy Local board member Debra Tenenbaum said part of the group’s mission is to send a message to consumers that local shopping districts such as the Old Port are more fun than going to the mall.
“Going shopping downtown is an experience,” she said. “It’s like an event.”
Tenenbaum said she has noticed a recent increase in the degree of enthusiasm consumers have for patronizing independent businesses in their communities.
“I think people are more jazzed up this year about buying local,” she said.