The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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December 2, 2013

Merchants: ‘shop small’ campaign a success

JOHNSTOWN — Black Friday, with its frigid, early morning lines and eye-catching doorbusters, is the same every year. The underlying themes are “save big, shop big.”

This year, more consumers than ever before chose to “shop small” on Saturday.

The newest post-Thanksgiving shopping hype holiday, Small Business Saturday, has begun to find legs of its own, according to a national survey, and local business owners are reaping the benefits.

“It was a whole different ball game this year  – it’s not normal for us to be that busy,” said Mid Mandichak, owner of Mid’s Homemade Candy in Ebensburg. “I think people are realizing that you want to keep (business) local. ... We support the local people and all my employees are local.”

Dan Danner, CEO of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, said it’s good to see consumers keeping their dollars local, as well.

“In an uncertain economy, America’s small businesses have remained a beacon – creating good  jobs and supporting the families they employ and the communities around them,” he said in a release. “We are very pleased that so many Americans sought to give back by shopping small this Small Business Saturday.”

According to a survey conducted by the federation and American Express, consumers dropped $5.7 billion at local stores the day after Black Friday. The survey also found awareness of the “shop small” movement rose to 71 percent, up from 67 percent in 2012.

In November alone, the release states, more than 352,000 tweets about Small Business Saturday – with hashtags like #SmallBizSat or #ShopSmall – circled the Twitterverse, 65 percent more than last year. The official Small Business Saturday Facebook page now boasts over 3.3 million “likes.”

“I think the movement has definitely been catching on,” said Jessica Martella, who opened her small business, Adorned Gift and Accessory Boutique along Franklin Street in Johnstown, on Labor Day weekend.

“Because we were so new, we really didn’t know what to expect and we were thrilled with the response.”

Mandichak called it “top-of-mind awareness” – with all those tweets, hashtags and Facebook posts, how could shoppers forget about their local businesses?

“I think there’s more publicity,” she said. “You gotta keep that in people’s faces.”

For Cathy Garlesky, who opened Garlesky’s Gift Gallery in Somerset a little over a

year ago, the added exposure and Black Friday-hype mentality brought new customers to her storefront on Saturday.

“We had several people stop in and say they had no idea we were even there,” she said. “It was a really good day for us.”

Amy Munoz, the co-owner of Country Son gift shop along Scalp Avenue in Richland Township, said she’s thankful for the social media push, as well as loyal customers who have kept her in business for close to 16 years.

“I think it does make the average consumer more aware of what a small business can offer: Customer service, convenient parking, more on-on-one with the owners,” she said. “You can’t get customer service like that in a large store.”

Justin Dennis is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/JustinDennis.

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