November 23, 2012

'Shopping small' means brisk business – for Main Street

After Black Friday, a promotional effort urges consumers to spend in support of ‘local job creators.’

By Jessica Hall
Staff Writer

Between the mayhem of Black Friday and the online scouting of Cyber Monday, Mainers will have a chance to support local businesses with their holiday dollars.

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Mandy Sabine is among the artists featured in a Biddeford co-op called “Handmade on Main” that encourages people to shop locally for the holidays.

Photos by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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Gregory Beaudin-Katz, a volunteer with the downtown Biddeford co-op Engine, encourages shoppers to support the small businesses that sustain local economies instead of the big-box retailers whose profits go to corporate headquarters.

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American Express has been promoting Small Business Saturday, an effort to encourage shoppers to patronize mom and pop stores, including local artisans and the Main Street stalwarts, rather than fight the crowds at big-box retailers and malls.

"It's a great way to support small businesses and celebrate that they are there," said Joy Scott, an owner of Coastal Art Glass in Bath. "It's a chance to take people away from the mall. It's important to remind people to support the local economy and local job creators."

Scott, who has been a glass artist for three years, will be participating in Bath's Small Business Saturday for the first time this year from her new studio on Water Street. The store will serve refreshments and offer 20 percent off on jewelry.

"By buying directly in the local community, most of that dollar remains in the community versus the small percentage of a dollar that stays in the community if that same dollar is spent at Walmart," said Tammy Ackerman, executive director of Engine, a local arts organization in Biddeford.

Engine is supporting a program called Handmade on Main, which features 25 arts and craftspeople in Biddeford through the end of the year.

"Supporting local stores and crafts people and artists helps keep the community more diverse. I cringe when I go into communities where it's just a Target and a CVS. The individuality is lacking," Ackerman said. "Maine is such a state of crafters -- textiles, boatbuilding, photography, jewelry -- that it's important to embrace and encourage those businesses."

American Express started promoting Small Business Saturday in 2010 to help small businesses get more exposure during one of the biggest shopping weekends of the year. Last year, more than 100 million people shopped at independently-owned small businesses on that day, American Express said.

"Anecdotally, the Small Business Saturday promotion is really great. It's really caught on and it's creating awareness," said Curtis Picard, executive director at the Retail Association of Maine. "American Express has done a good job to get the message out there about the importance of supporting local businesses."

American Express said its Small Business Saturday effort has garnered 3.1 million "likes" on Facebook so far this year, up from 2.7 million at the close of the campaign last year.

Of the tens of millions of Americans familiar with Small Business Saturday, 67 percent are planning to "shop small" on Saturday, up from 44 percent who said they shopped at small businesses on that day a year ago, according to the Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey.

The research, released by the National Federation of Independent Business and American Express, showed that of those consumers who shopped last year on Small Business Saturday, 70 percent plan to spend the same amount or more this year and will spend on average $100 on Nov. 24.

American Express is offering a $25 statement credit when cardholders enroll at and then use that card to spend $25 or more on a single in-store transaction at a small business on Nov. 24.

"America's small businesses contribute to their communities in innumerable ways -- creating half of private sector jobs, generating the revenue that spurs continued growth and supporting the families they employ," said National Federation of Independent Business Chief Executive Dan Danner.

"Small Business Saturday gives us a chance to show our appreciation and to help America's job creators in a very real way, by patronizing small shops, restaurants and service providers," Danner said. "Anything that helps with sales is certainly appreciated by small-business owners, many of whom have struggled to stay afloat in a rough and uncertain economy."

Staff Writer Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:


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Additional Photos

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Arts and crafts by Mandy Sabine and other local artisans are displayed on a table at Engine’s storefront in downtown Biddeford.


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