Stefanie Baca, owner of The Ten Spot II on Union Ave., doesn’t wake up at 3 a.m. on the notorious shopping days following Thanksgiving. She doesn’t offer ridiculously low priced door busters and surprisingly, she doesn’t say that Black Friday ruins her business.
With Black Friday lines forming earlier each year, it is surprising to hear Baca claim it is actually a good day for her and her business. She says it’s all about the local, loyal customers that turn out rather than the people searching for single day sales.
Union Ave. has a much different feeling than the Pueblo Mall on the weekend following Thanksgiving. Shops are alive with customers but they are nowhere near as hurried and frantic as the big box stores. People seem to have a different pace when they reach the small shops.
“(The customers) are already out and about,” said Baca. She knows that her store isn’t the first stop on shoppers’ lists but always ends up with a good turn out. This year will be Baca’s fourth holiday season and she expects about the same crowd as she has seen in previous years.
Even with stores like Wal-Mart, Target, and Best Buy offering some of the biggest deals of the season, small businesses owners seem to be pretty pleased with the amount of people that shop local.
“I am always surprised that small businesses are the last place people shop,” said Bill Merhoff, owner of Cowboy Supply on Main St. The weekend following Thanksgiving is a good kickoff to the season for his store as well but explained that the real business comes at the very last minute, the weekend before Christmas.
“Especially with men, you know how they are,” Merhoff said as he rolled his eyes and laughed.
The day after Black Friday has come to be known as Small Business Saturday. The event was born in 2009 and is the product of an American Express promotion. It offers rewards to small businesses that accept the credit card and shoppers who use the card. Last year, American Express reported just over 100 million Americans turned out to shop local.
America Express isn’t the number one credit card choice by many small businesses, however. Baca says her business doesn’t accept the card because it is too much of a cost.
To even accept the card, retailers have to pay a fee and when shoppers use an American Express card, it takes a big chunk from the businesses profits because businesses are forced to pay the entire interchange fee whereas companies like Visa and MasterCard usually split the cost with the business.
“Some people only (use American Express) so we have to grit our teeth and accept it,” said Merhoff. He wouldn’t accept it if it was up to him, he added, but has realized over the years that its been a necessity.
Merhoff hadn’t heard of Small Business Saturday but said that he has owned a similar cowboy western store in rural Kansas and they were more supportive of small business there because it was all people had.
“Here, people always think they have to go to the next town (to get more variety),” Merhoff said. He quietly pointed to one man across the store and he explained that he had been in the day before.
“He went to Colorado Springs and now he’s back,” he said. The merchandise that Cowboy Supply offers is specific and Merhoff relies on that to draw in customers.
The Ten Spot isn’t as specializaed as Merhoff’s store but still does well during the holidays. Even without offering the option to use American Express, Baca said that her Saturday tends to be pretty profitable.
“It’s a good Saturday, but it’s the time of year too,” Baca said. The company may be promoting their credit card with the shopping day, but to Americans it is another reminder that shopping at small businesses is good for the local economy.
Small businesses, those with fewer than 500 employees, fuel the economy. According to the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration around 60 to 80 percent of all new net jobs created are because of small businesses. Small businesses haven’t quite warmed up to the idea of accepting American Express, but aren’t complaining about the message the promotion is sending consumers.
Lawrence Tafoya, jeweler at Tafoya Gold in Pueblo West, said that Black Friday hasn’t affected his business for the five years it has been open. He relies more on repairs and custom to work to keep his business afloat while he does have merchandise available for purchase.
His specialty draws in a lot of business around the holidays though and that seems to be the theme among small business owners in Southern Colorado.