Park City retailers fight for share of shopping frenzy |

Park City retailers fight for share of shopping frenzy

The hordes of shoppers will stampede into chain stores on Black Friday, sacrificing all but life and limb in search of a deal. On Cyber Monday, those who prefer to do their holiday shopping from the comforts of home will clatter away at their keyboards for online discounts from retailers such as Amazon.

But small businesses around the country, with the help of American Express, are spreading their own message during the biggest shopping weekend of the year: Don’t forget about us.

The credit card giant created Small Business Saturday in 2010, offering discounts to people who used their American Express cards at participating small businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. American Express is not offering discounts this year, but members of the Park City business community say the day has become popular enough that it now serves as a kick off for them into the holiday shopping season.

"It’s very important," said Jon Allen, owner of J.W. Allen & Sons Toys & Candy in Redstone. "It’s great that American Express does this. It’s nice that they are kind of giving kudos to small business and supporting them.

"And it is growing," he said. "The first year they came out with it, I don’t think too many people knew about it — people weren’t educated enough about how it works. But I think over the years, the locals have taken more advantage of it. People are more than willing to support local businesses."

Farasha, a Main Street women’s clothing boutique and fashion consultant, is offering a one-day-only discount on everything in the store for Small Business Saturday. Owner Vanessa Di Palma Wright said it’s becoming increasingly difficult for small retailers to keep pace with the likes of Amazon and big-box chains, but she is hopeful the store’s unique selection of designers and clothes is enough to stand out and earn customers’ holiday business.

She added that Parkites, in particular, are quick to come out during Small Business Saturday because they see the value local retailers bring to town.

"My personal sense from my clientele is people absolutely support small businesses," she said. "I think that we’re living in a time that people can go online to shop or to other stores that have big sales. There’s a lot out there, and obviously everybody wants to find the best deal. But at the end of the day, it’s about supporting locals, and people are starting to realize the importance of that."

For Allen, Black Friday is just like any other fall Friday — sales are average or slow because shoppers haven’t yet turned their attention to his store for holiday gifts. Small Business Saturday has become the day that dam breaks and customers begin flooding in. It allows Allen to start off the most crucial month of his year right.

"Big boxes and Amazon make it more difficult every year to stay afloat," Allen said. "It’s nice that we do have the local support behind us on that Saturday because fourth-quarter business is what keeps us all afloat. If you can’t do it over the holiday season, then you’re not going to be around the rest of the year."

Alison Butz, president of the Historic Park City Alliance, a group that represents businesses on or near Main Street, said she, too, has noticed a surge in the influence of Small Business Saturday. As in previous years, the alliance distributed materials to businesses to raise awareness about the event. But for the first time, most retailers were already on top of it.

"The word is spreading around to merchants like, ‘You have to participate in this day. It’s going to be a great day,’" Butz said. "The merchants themselves are distributing the information on it."

Small Business Saturday isn’t the only event happening on Main Street on Nov. 28. The alliance’s annual Main Street Electric Parade will be held that night, giving residents another reason to hit Main Street and support local business.

"I think we’ll see a significantly sized crowd on Saturday," Butz said. "We’re expecting to see even more people this year that last year. More and more people are understanding how important small businesses are and what they mean to communities."

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