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Shop local on Small Business Saturday around Tampa Bay

Keep St. Pete Local is an independent business alliance in St. Petersburg that has more than 600 members. Many of the local stores hope to see a bump from Small Business Saturday. Photos courtesy of Keep St. Pete Local
Published Nov. 25, 2016

If waiting in line and shoving through crowds 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 first organized by American Express in 2010. The credit card company estimated it helped spur $14.3 billion in sales in 2014 at independent retailers. Last year, 95 million people shopped on Small Business Saturday.

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. Tampa ranked No. 6 on a list of the top 20 cities in the U.S. for buying local this year, Yelp said. It beat Miami, which ranked at 16th, and was the only other city in Florida on the list. In 2014, Yelp ranked St. Petersburg third.

In downtown St. Petersburg, supporting locally owned, independent businesses is part of the city's fabric, said Olga Bof, founder and executive director of Keep St. Pete Local, the independent business alliance in downtown St. Petersburg.

"We help push out the notion of why St. Pete is so awesome," Bof said. "And it isn't because we have 10 Applebee's in town."

Since the organization was founded five years ago to promote local businesses in St. Petersburg, it has grown to 600 active members, Bof said. Each year, Keep St. Pete Local puts on a host of events, including Localtopia in Williams Park, to raise awareness of the many independent business owners around Tampa Bay.

"We've grown alongside St. Pete's growth," Bof said. "But 'buy local' isn't something we started. That movement has been around forever. But we've helped shape that culture here, and I think we're partly responsible for the fierce local pride residents have for this city."

Shoppers will spend an average of $324 on gifts bought at independent merchants this holiday season, totaling nearly $48.6 billion spent nationwide in November and December, Yelp estimates. That's up a sharp 26 percent from 2015, the survey shows.

"Every year, Small Business Saturday keeps getting bigger and bigger," said Greg Curtis, owner of Cleanse Apothecary in Tampa's Seminole Heights neighborhood. This will be his store's seventh Small Business Saturday.

Read more: Seminole Heights readies for Holiday Shop Hop

Earlier in the week, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor visited his store to encourage Tampa Bay residents to shop locally on Small Business Saturday.

"When we first opened our store, people always asked why we picked Seminole Heights," Curtis said. "We were one of the first retail stores to open here. But now, it's such a vibrant neighborhood with the best local restaurants and unique shops."

Curtis says that's because people in Tampa Bay wanted more from their communities.

"There's a reason for it. You get unique products and better customer service," he said. "We become the extension of family to our customers. You don't get that at Walmart or Target or even Nordstrom."

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

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