Weekend observations: #SmallBizSat needs a steroid shot, special sales — and the support of area shoppers anxious to keep their dollars working in Northwest Georgia.

Weekend observations: #SmallBizSat needs a steroid shot, special sales — and the support of area shoppers anxious to keep their dollars working in Northwest Georgia.

Today is another mostly low key acknowledgement of Small Business Saturday in Northwest Georgia. Sure, the social media posts are up urging you to shop where you live but that’s about where it stops. What we’ve found so far: A few special Saturday-only deals; a handful of local “testimonials” about why spending local keeps dollars local; and some heartfelt thanks for those who do patronize our smaller shops today and everyday. But few, if any, of the signs in storefront windows that normally accompany the push are out.

The concept was launched to take back some of the now-waning “Black Friday” business and later to help counter “Cyber Monday.” It continues to get some token attention, which is a shame as small business is a huge part of our economy. The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office estimates that “small businesses account for approximately 99.7% of registered businesses” in Georgia. Not all of them are retail or restaurants but that’s still a dominant number.

The Small Business Saturday page created by American Express has more than 3.3 million “likes” and more than 130 of those are from our area. The page features vignettes of businesses across the country, all small even if in bigger cities.

A similar concept is on display on the Downtown Rome Facebook page. Some edited excerpts from the local posts include:

Mountains Ice Cream: “To me, Shop Small means supporting your community! Our business is how we are putting food on the table, paying for college, taking care of our family, supporting local organizations and giving back to the community. The relationships that we have built with our customers over the years is truly one of the best parts of our business! When you shop small you get personalized service and truly come to love the shop for more than just what they sell. Our family loves what we do and we love the people & community we serve. We hope to be building a business that will serve Rome for many many years to come, and we hope to be able to leave it to our children one day. We employ mostly high school and college students during the summer and we love that we get to be a lot of young peoples first job. They all become my kids and the family dynamic of the business is what’s most rewarding! Doing what you love with the people you love, what can be better than that! So when your out holiday shopping don’t forget to Shop Small … it’s supporting a family and your local community! Thank you to every single customer who has ever walked through our door you are truly appreciated.”
Paula’s Boutique Of Rome: “You are helping small business owners support their families and your community! They could be your neighbors, friends, church members, and live in your community! You are keeping small business owners in business … You are helping those who donate to your local schools and buys items from your children for fundraisers. You are helping keep tax dollars in your community.”
Dogwood Books: “Shop Small” means supporting your neighbors and community. It gives the customer the experience of the joy of discovery-finding that perfect item. “Shop Small” brings the opportunity to encounter friendly customer service and attention.”
Downtown Rome also created a Facebook event for today. Thirty-four people indicated they were “going” and another 280 were “interested.”
We trimmed a few jabs from the above comments aimed at the “big box” or online retailers.
If anything, this is a year of transition for area shoppers. This is the first Christmas shopping season for bigger players in Rome such as Kohl’s, Old Navy and Ulta Beauty. In the past decade, the market has lost Sear’s, J.C. Penney’s, Kmart, Circuit City, World Hi-Fi and other traditional Christmas shopping stops. At the same time — and powered in part by pandemic trends — e-commerce continues to surge and we’re seeing a fleet of new warehouses and fulfillment centers along the I-75 corridor. Any day now, we’ll see the annual posts from area law enforcement agencies about watching out for “porch pirates.”
The “shop small” push does have an impact. The federal Small Business Administration office reports that “last year, shoppers came together in full force to support their local communities, and Small Business Saturday hit a record high with an estimated $19.8 billion in reported spending. This year, holiday consumer spending is projected to break new records.”
The SBA and others urge retailers and shoppers both to use  the hashtag #SmallBizSat to get the attention of the social media crowd. Give it a run on Twitter or Facebook; you’ll be surprised at the results from posts across the country. Actors, mayors and retailers are all posting video greetings, urging people to think small when shopping.
But it takes more than a clever meme or hashtag. Shoppers need an extra reason to give the storefront a second look — a deal, perhaps, to get them through the door.
Here’s a great example from Blue Sky at both the Rome and Cartersville stores set for today:
Another we’ve seen locally is for a restaurant, Lobrillo’s Vienna in Rome at 1600 Shorter Ave. On Facebook, they’ve cooked up their own Black Friday/Saturday deal by offering all their weekday specials today — two dogs of your choice; meatball sub combos, Italian sausage, brats, etc. — at discount prices. That’s an excellent example of how this works best — not just a photo about shopping where you live but giving people one more inducement to do exactly that (plus some of us need a break from the turkey and ham).
As the SBA says, we’re likely to break some records this Small Business Saturday. Our unemployment rate is at a record low and more employers are paying a competitive wage. The trick is keeping more of those Christmas dollars inside Northwest Georgia for the next month — and to give customers more reasons to shop where they live in 2022..
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