Small Business Saturday Gets Shoppers Thinking Local - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Small Business Saturday Gets Shoppers Thinking Local

Posted: Updated: Nov 26, 2011 08:21 PM EST

Holiday shoppers were thinking smaller on Saturday. Big box stores had their turn to boost sales on Black Friday, but now small businesses in Charlottesville are hoping to attract customers in what can be a make-or-break season for their bottom lines.

It is estimated shoppers will spend $465 million this holiday season and small business owners hope to grab a bigger share of that spending. The Alakazam Toy Store in Charlottesville was packed this Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Alakazam Toy Store Owner Cassandra Mathis said, "I wasn't expecting it to be this busy, so I'm really happy about that."

Mathis says it's especially good news after years of declining sales. Small Business Saturday is a marketing push created by American Express last year to push shoppers to smaller stores after the Black Friday rush to the malls.

Downtown Business Association Co-Chair Bob Stroh said, "We're all small businesses downtown, and we're all independent."

Stroh says small business is the key to Charlottesville's continued economic growth.

"That's the part that's really important is that it's not just the businesses but it's the entire community where the local dollars get circulated where the national dollars don't," he explained.

By days end, it's estimated about 89 million people across the country will have shopped at a small business. While Mathis says her toy shop will never be able to compete on price with the big chains, she offers something they can't, personalized customer service.

"If somebody comes in to buy a gift for a child, and they don't really know that child, but they know the age, and they know the budget, we can help them find exactly what they want, that they didn't know they wanted," said Mathis.

The majority of businesses located on the downtown mall are locally owned and operated. The Downtown Business Association offers gift certificates good at more than one hundred stores and restaurants on the mall. Click here to find that information.

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