Small Business Saturday encourages local shopping

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Putnam - posted Mon., Nov. 26, 2012
Scarves turn a wall into a colorful Christmas display.
Scarves turn a wall into a colorful Christmas display.

Job coach Corinne Worden and her staff at The Arc Emporium in Putnam saw a lot of customers on Small Business Saturday.  She assumes many of those customers were tourists or extended family members home for the Thanksgiving holiday. She didn't see as many regular customers as usual, but the foot traffic through the store was significant nonetheless.

“They came in waves,” she said. “We saw them going from store to store.”

Initiated by American Express three years ago, the Small Business Saturday campaign has filled in the space between Black Friday and Cyber Monday with its focus on small, local businesses. According to the American Express website, more than 500,000 small businesses in the U.S. participated this year. And ABC News reported that President Obama spent time Saturday shopping at small businesses in the Washington, D.C., area.

While the campaign has helped many small businesses increase their bottom line, all of them have to constantly find ways to compete for a limited number of dollars in a recession-weary economy. The Arc is unique in that it offers a wide array of items, footwear and clothing, many of them high-end designer wear that customers can purchase for a fraction of the cost. The store also sells jewelry, handcrafted items and local food products on consignment. Customers can purchase Fabyan Sugar Shack maple syrup and peanut brittle. Holy Family Honey markets its locally-produced wild flower honey. Ralph Somes' handmade jewelry is available for purchase, as are items from The Craft Menagerie and hand-knit scarves and hats by Vicky.

“We carry so much,” Worden said. She hopes that the 25-percent sale going on throughout December will encourage more sales. “Everyone needs things for Christmas,” she said.

More and more it’s the niche small businesses fill, the unique products they offer and the personal service they provide that keep customers returning. Worden said that her regular customers return even when they don't purchase anything. “They'll stop in just to say hello,” she said.

Aubuchon store manager Kristen Bedard said business was steady at the Putnam Shopping Center store on Saturday. Many of her customers were buying for the Holiday Dazzle Parade scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 25. “We had a steady day,” she said. “They were buying strings of lights, extension cords and surge outlets,” she said.

There are more than 120 Aubuchon Hardware stores in New England and upstate New York. Bedard said what sets Aubuchon's apart from the big chains is the quality of products sold. “Someone would buy a wood stove or a pellet stove from us because of the quality and the availability of replacement parts,” she said. Other products include Benjamin Moore paint and Purina feed and grain. “But customer service is the big one,” she added.

Mayor Peter Place said local merchants are an important foundation of the community. “We know that service and trust comes from shopping locally,” he said. “Downtown merchants bring a lot to the table. They are members of the Putnam Business Association, the Rotary, the Lions Club, and so many other organizations that support our schools and the needy in our community. Without them, it hurts our economy in this area. If we don't support the local merchants that work here, we're giving everything away.”

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