Campaign aims to drive consumers to think small for the holidays

2012-11-23T00:00:00Z 2012-11-23T18:09:15Z Campaign aims to drive consumers to think small for the holidaysLauri Harvey Keagle lauri.keagle@nwi.com, (219) 852-4311 nwitimes.com

Donna Phelps knows how small business can help the community and wants residents to understand how their dollars make a difference.

"We participate in style shows for nonprofits and use our windows to promote local nonprofits," Phelps said.

Phelps is the owner of Seasons on the Square, a contemporary clothing and accessories store at 1 Lincolnway in downtown Valparaiso. On Saturday, Phelps will be among the thousands of businesses nationwide participating in Small Business Saturday, a campaign launched by American Express in 2009 in an effort to encourage consumers to shop a small businesses on the Saturday after Black Friday.

Phelps said her shop and other small businesses offer service unlike larger chain stores.

"It's always the personalized service," she said. "If we've met you once, we may not know your name but we certainly remember you. On any given day, anyone can come in and no one knows who the owner is because everyone is treated the same."

American Express and the National Federation of Independent Business reported nearly half of all small businesses plan to include Small Business Saturday in their holiday marketing strategies while 67 percent plan to offer special sales related to the day.

"During the last several years, big business has been recovering somewhat but small business, their optimism remains at recessionary levels," said Barbara Quandt, Indiana State Director of the National Federation of Independent Business.

Quandt said consumers are catching on to Small Business Saturday.

"I'm seeing a lot more interest in the day and on social media as well as in mainstream media," she said.

In October, The Times Media Co. announced the "Buy Local" campaign, a partnership with 17 local chambers of commerce aimed at encouraging consumers in the region to support local businesses. The program aims to educate local consumers, drive new customers to local businesses and encourage those businesses to join their local chambers of commerce.

As part of the campaign, businesses are displaying promotional materials with the slogan "It Pays to Buy Local." The Times is also offering "Buy Local Deals," which offer customers at least 50 percent off on products and services from participating businesses.

Dave Ryan, executive director of the Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, said the several thousand merchants benefiting from the Buy Local campaign in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties embody the importance of buying local.

"We know how important small businesses are to the whole community," Ryan said. "If you think local, you'll buy local and that's what it is all about."

Phelps, who participates in the Buy Local and Small Business Saturday campaigns, said Buy Local impacted a recent shopping trip.

"I'm somewhat in the market for a car and went to locally to look because of it," Phelps said.

Ryan said Small Business Saturday "is an awareness thing," much like Buy Local.

"We have big box members who belong to our organization, so while it is important to think about small business it is also important to think about local business," Ryan said. "By promoting and keeping the small guy's business and woman's business in business, you're helping your community and helping yourself."

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