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  1. Business

Black Friday not for you? Try Small Business Saturday

TAMPA — The day after Thanksgiving is just like any other day at the store for Albisia Ipek, owner of Albisia Jewelry in Hyde Park Village.

That's because long lines and crazy good deals don't really mesh with her boutique jewelry brand. Or Hyde Park Village, where her store is located, even though there are a handful of chain stores there.

"People are changing their ways, they realize the benefits of shopping small will boost the local economy and that money will stay local and eventually find its way back to them," Ipek said. "It's also an overall better experience and more personable. Small shops offer more unique products that have been hand-selected, or handmade in our case, that can't be found elsewhere."

So if waiting in line on Black Friday isn't your thing, maybe try Small Business Saturday, a relatively new annual shopping day that falls on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Independent store owners across the Tampa Bay area are banking on this "shop small" movement to drive consumers into their boutiques this holiday season. The shopping day was organized by American Express in 2010. The credit card company estimated it helped spur $14.3 billion in sales last year at independent retailers.

Shopping local is a trend that has grown in recent years, especially with the millennial generation. Consumers are willing to spend more at locally owned restaurants and shops than at chains these days. More than 60 percent of Americans said they will shop at local businesses this holiday season, according to a shopping survey by Yelp.

"Every year since the start of this shopping holiday in 2010 thanks to AmEx, I have seen more and more people coming to support us on this day," Ipek said. She opened her store in Tampa in 2011.

Shoppers will spend an average of $258 on gifts bought at independent merchants this holiday season, totaling nearly $40 billion spent nationwide in November and December, Yelp estimates.

"Most people don't realize that the largest category of reviewed businesses on Yelp is shopping, and so we've seen these local retail trends developing for years," said Jeremy Stoppelman, co-founder and CEO of Yelp.

And it's not just in stores. Handmade crafts that are sold on the website Etsy see a boost on Small Business Saturday. Shoppers can "shop local" at stores in some of their favorite cities by buying from independent merchants via social media these days, too.

"We live in a society so dialed in to social media and smartphones, I think people enjoy the idea of community and the personal interaction. The shopping trend is going toward the experience," said Kallie Wesley, co-owner of Juxtapose Apparel and Studio, which has locations in Hyde Park Village and at the Sundial in St. Petersburg.

"Although we have people shopping from Facebook and Instagram all the time, we feel that people still appreciate the touch-and-feel tangible shopping experience," she said.

Last year Yelp ranked St. Petersburg No. 3 in a list of the best U.S. cities to buy local. This year, Hyde Park Village is hosting an all day "shop small" event with live music and promotions at its mix of retailers and restaurants.

In downtown Dunedin, shop owners have prepared for today, which they consider their kickoff event for the holiday season.

"Dunedin stands out because we don't have any of the corporate stores in our downtown at all," said Gregory Brady, president of the Downtown Dunedin Merchants Association, a group that represents the city's 70-plus locally owned businesses. "Our mindset is all local. We're all mom-and-pop operations. People come here to shop because they know they're getting something unique."

Contact Justine Griffin at jgriffin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.

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