Local business leaders are urging consumers to save some dollars for Shop Small Saturday, which targets shoppers who might be jumping into frenzied holiday gift-buying on Black Friday at area malls.
The #ShopLocalHernando initiative, launched by the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce, is joining the next day's alternative, Shop Small Saturday. The idea is to encourage local businesses to offer one-day-only deals and sales, post marketing materials on the Internet and utilize social media.
Saturday should "celebrate the small businesses, as they are the backbone of our economy and the glue that holds communities together," said Cindy McMillan, information specialist at the chamber.
One business owner doing her part is Crystal Smith, who is acting as a sort of walking billboard for the cause by handing out shopping totes decorated and stenciled with the day's designation. On such outings, she's accompanied by her rescue hound, Wesson, who wears a "Shop Small" bandana.
Smith, who owns Shine Consulting in Brooksville, explained that she left the corporate business world and returned to her roots to provide small businesses with the marketing and branding they need to stay competitive in today's market.
Chamber marketing specialist Jean Harberts said the small businesses that announced their Shop Small participation early on include Spring Hill's Ink Refill Center and Electric Beach Tanning, as well as Brooksville's Resale Gypsies, Almost Home Furniture, Flooring & Bedding, Taipei Taipei Tea House and Mountaineer Coffee.
"With our membership of 950," said chamber executive director Pat Crowley, "we are 99 percent small businesses."
While the federal government defines a small business as any with fewer than 500 employees, Crowley said, "I think the majority of the population believes small business to be a mom-and-pop business, one that employs 30. That's a small business.
"Basically, we're trying to bring awareness of the small businesses in Hernando County," she continued. "It's nothing for me to go into a small boutique and discover special finds.
"In downtown Brooksville, stop by and do some of your shopping for the holidays. And have lunch," Crowley urged.
Among the businesses the chamber touts, 875 have 49 employees or fewer and 161 are retail outlets or restaurants. The remainder are mostly service businesses such as law firms, hair salons, banks or real estate, among others.
Even in Hernando County's largest plazas "there are independent, little stores nestled in," Crowley pointed out. "Even (some) smaller stores are chain stores." The latter may be franchises owned by local residents. Even if corporately owned, they employ the local workforce.
"If you don't support businesses in the community, they are going to close," Crowley said. "Look what happened to Sports Authority." The national sporting goods chain shuttered its Spring Hill outlet early this year as it shed under-performing stores across the country.
The University of South Florida's Small Business Development Center, in association with the chamber, supports small businesses with no-fee programs varying from formulating business plans to accessing growth loans and finding new markets.
"Not as many as we'd like" take advantage of the programs, said Bill Burnham, the center's business consultant. He reported an alarming statistic: "Eventually, 82 percent of startups and small businesses fail." The main reason, he added, is poor cash management. "That's why we're here."
And that's why the chamber and the agency are pushing hard on Shop Small Saturday.
Contact Beth Gray at email@example.com.