Consumers shopped in a big way as they packed chain stores and malls for Black Friday deals. Now it's time to shop small.
Independent retailers that felt overshadowed by the Black Friday frenzy get their turn during Small Business Saturday.
American Express founded Small Business Saturday in 2010 to help small businesses get more exposure during one of the biggest shopping weekends of the year. It's held the Saturday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
For the third year, shoppers can get a $25 credit on their American Express statement by enrolling their card at shopsmall.com and spending $25 or more at a participating retailer. Hundreds of Tampa Bay area restaurants, boutiques and stores are taking part.
Hillary McCoy, co-owner of the Iron Pelican, an antique and home decor store in St. Petersburg, promises a more relaxed shopping experience, free of the hustle and bustle of big stores and shopping centers. Customers will get individualized attention and gifts not typically sold at chain retailers. Everyone will find a parking space.
McCoy took part in the promotional day last year, soon after she and her husband opened their shop on Central Avenue. Compared to an average Saturday, business was brisk, she said. The strong response showed people's appreciation of small businesses as a main job creator and driver of the economy.
"We were pleasantly surprised that people were trying to stay away from the big box retail and supporting small businesses," she said. "They like the convenience and ease of shopping local."
Based on last year's success, the store is incorporating a sidewalk sale and adding new merchandise. The store sells antiques, shabby chic furniture and unusual home accessories found at yard and estate sales and refurbished. Every item will be 20 percent off.
About 70 percent of shoppers who participated last year plan to spend the same or more this year, according to a survey by the National Federation of Independent Business and American Express. Shoppers will spend an average of $100.
The survey found the top five places people plan to shop on Small Business Saturday are independent restaurants, followed by bakeries, clothing stores, gift shops and book shops. About three-quarters of people said their No. 1 reason for participating was because they value the contributions small businesses make to the community. The No. 2 reason was better customer service.
Mike McCue, president of the Gulfport Merchants Association, said Small Business Saturday attracted the "anti-Walmart crowd'' and fans of small businesses. Sales were up 25 percent last year at Domain, a home accessories store and art gallery he manages in Gulfport.
"It caught us off guard in a good way," he said. "People were specifically out for it. Some even said they were doing all of their shopping that day. We can only hope that it's a repeat of last year."