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Macomb County, Wayne County

November 14, 2012

Small Business Saturday promotes the benefits of local merchants

By Cortney Casey
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
Gemological Institute of America-certified gemologist Nicole Diliberti assists Stefanie Grasso of Macomb Township at Elegant Creations Fine Modern Jewelry as owner Pierre Nahed looks on. Nahed is one of many Macomb County business owners looking forward to Small Business Saturday: the day after Black Friday that encourages shopping at local, independently owned companies.
Pandora keepsake bracelets are among items Nahed offers at his Shelby Township store. Nahed insists small businesses typically offer better service and products than their larger counterparts.
 

You won’t see sales-circular-clutching shoppers camped out in front of Pierre Nahed’s store on Thanksgiving night — and that’s just fine with him.

“The biggest thing with small businesses is, you’re not waiting in lines,” said Nahed, owner of Elegant Creations Fine Modern Jewelry in Shelby Township. “You’re going to get what you want. Most of the time, you’re probably going to get a better product.”

Nahed is one of many Macomb County small business owners eagerly anticipating the arrival of the Saturday after Thanksgiving, increasingly known as “Small Business Saturday.”

Encouraging shoppers to patronize local businesses, the day contributes to the trifecta of late-November shopping holidays, joining the major retailer-focused Black Friday and the e-retailer-centered Cyber Monday. Sunday, it appears, is still up for grabs.

According to Internet lore, American Express is credited with adding Small Business Saturday to the consumer vernacular in 2010. The company claims more than 100 million people turned out to shop at independently owned small businesses during last year’s edition.

Gloria Kinne, owner of Circare, a St. Clair Shores-based gift shop, is among the concept’s biggest cheerleaders.

“Small Business Saturday for us has just been tremendous,” she said. “The first year did really well — about double what we normally would. Last year, it exploded.”

It helps that American artists crafted at least half of her “eclectic” shop’s inventory, including handmade purses, scarves, toys, pottery and jewelry, said Kinne, as it seems more and more customers are specifically seeking American-made items.

She plans to discount everything in her store and serve refreshments for the upcoming Small Business Saturday, which falls on Nov. 24.

The day’s focus dovetails with another initiative Kinne touts to her customers: The 3/50 Project. Launched in 2009, the campaign claims it’s “saving the brick-and-mortars our nation is built on” by urging residents to spend a total of $50 per month on three local businesses they’d miss if they no longer existed.

According to The 3/50 Project’s website, more than $42.6 billion in revenue would be generated if 50 percent of the employed population took up the challenge, and $68 of every $100 spent at a locally owned independent business returns to the community via payroll, taxes, etc.

Grace Shore, CEO of the Macomb County Chamber of Commerce, and Wayne Oehmke, president of the Sterling Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said there’s a place for all-sized retailers, but small businesses offer a certain something that their larger counterparts just can’t beat.

Shore estimated that small businesses comprise about 90 percent of the Macomb County Chamber’s membership, and she considers them “the drivers of our economy.”

“It is very common that small businesses offer a level of customer service that big-box stores just can’t do,” she said. “You don’t often get to see the manager of the big stores or the large chain stores, but often (at smaller retailers), you’re doing business with the actual owner.”

Nahed agrees.

“I think convenience, more than anything, you get from small business,” he said. “We’re waiting on you, not 10 other people at the same time. Or (at large stores) no one’s waiting on you, and you’re waiting on yourself.”

And, he laughed, customers don’t have to arrive at midnight just to ensure they’ll get the product they’re seeking.

Nahed said Small Business Saturday was “pretty decent” for Elegant Creations last year, and he’s hoping to build on that success this year, with sales planned for both that day and Black Friday.

Despite the economic rollercoaster of the last few years, Oehmke said he considers Macomb County’s current business climate “generally favorable,” especially for smaller entities.

He said he makes a habit of asking owners how their businesses are faring and how it compares to previous years, and “in the vast majority of cases, I gain a favorable response,” he said. “Sometimes they’ll share that they’re about the same as last year, others proudly say they’re up from last year, and occasionally someone will share that they’re down from the previous year.”

Even if they can’t make it to her store on Small Business Saturday, Kinne said she’s been encouraging her customers to venture into local businesses, wherever they find themselves come Nov. 24 — whether it’s a shop, a little diner, an independent market or the like.

“It’s just going into a local business that may be new, (or) maybe has been there for as long as they can remember, and saying, ‘Thanks for hanging in,’” she said, “because that’s where more of the money in our neighborhoods come from.”

For more information on Small Business Saturday, visit www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/ Shop-Small/. For more information on The 3/50 Project, visit www.the 350project.net.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Cortney Casey at ccasey@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1046.