Black Friday and its notorious crowds are back this week, but so is Small Business Saturday — a shopping movement that encourages making purchases from local and brick-and-mortar stores in the rush of your holiday shopping.
The day, which was originally kicked off by American Express, aims to bolster community shops and the neighborhoods they’re in each Saturday after Thanksgiving.
According to Amex’s 2018 Small Business Economic Impact Study, for every $1 spent at a small business, 67 cents stays in the community — and every cent counts, especially in New York City, which has seen its fair share of empty storefronts. The citywide commercial vacancy rate jumped by 45% between 2007 and 2017, going from 4% to 5.8%, with an increase of 5.2 million square-feet of empty retail space, according a report by Comptroller Scott Stringer this year.
“Local communities feel vacancies every day,” Stringer said in September. That’s why some organizations have taken steps to recapture New Yorkers’ attention to small businesses in their neighborhoods, like nonprofit Union Settlement in East Harlem.
With two years under its belt, Union Settlement’s Buy Local East Harlem initiative, which connects small businesses in East Harlem with new customers and hospitals, schools, and major cultural and social service organizations, has led to an additional $553,000 in sales for participating small businesses, it says.
“Buy Local East Harlem has created huge opportunities for businesses to increase sales, resulting in more hiring and in more resources retained inside of the neighborhood,” said David Nocenti, executive director of Union Settlement, of the initiative’s impact. “If we do it right, which the new report suggests that we have, it’s a virtuous cycle.”
This Saturday, many business improvement districts are making Small Business Saturday more festive — aside from just asking you to shop at your local gift shop.
The Park Slope 5th Avenue BID is asking locals to come to the stretch and shop as it hosts its tree lighting, with live performances, strolling carolers, stilt walkers and Santa Claus, from 4 to 6 p.m.
“The vitality of our small businesses is what makes Park Slope 5th Avenue so special, especially for the holidays when you’re searching for unique gifts for all the people in your life,” says Mark Caserta, executive director of the Park Slope 5th Avenue Business Improvement District. “Our 520 small businesses have — classes ranging from kickboxing to painting, shops featuring fashion, home decor, jewelry, wine, specialty foods, baby clothes and toys and gifts for the whole family. Our tree lighting is the perfect way to kick off Small Business Saturday and the holiday season.”
Similar events are going on at Little Italy in the Bronx, which will have its tree lighting that day with actor Chazz Palminteri from 4 to 6 p.m. and attention being drawn to its bakeries, Italian restaurants, butchers and markets, which will provide hot chocolate, Italian cookies and more.
Shop Small Astoria, a group of independent retailers, are throwing its fifth annual retail crawl, which gives customers a stamp on their “passports” when they shop at participating stores. By getting six or more, shoppers will be entered to win a grand prize of gift cards from all 20 stores; and those who get 10 or more will get a tote designed by local artist, Caryn Cast.
“I began Shop Small Astoria in 2015 to unite the local boutiques in the neighborhood and promote the amazing shopping opportunities we have here,” says Nicole Panettieri, the owner of The Brass Owl.
The Jamaica Center BID has been publishing short bios for some of its small stores, like Roma Shoe Repair, JR Step Up Furniture and Make Me Over Beauty Bar, on its Facebook page in preparation for Small Business Saturday, too.
Lyft is also participating with many of the city’s BIDs by offering 20% off a Lyft ride to partnering Small Business Saturday locations around the five boroughs. Use its localized discount code found at blog.lyft.com.
Amex is also partnering with NYC shops to offer freebies and specials including:
Baz Bagels (corner of Lafayette and Houston) — Free blue marble bagels
Happy Paws (316 Lafayette St.) — Free customized dog treats to the first 125 customers (10 a.m. to 7 p.m.)
Oddfellows (55 East Houston St.) — For purchase: Blue cotton candy and sprinkles-themed menu (9 a.m. to 11 p.m.)
The Jones Restaurant (54 Great Jones St.) — Special “Small Adds Up” menu offering three options to choose from including a Doughnut Project doughnut, special potato chips and non-alcoholic apple cider (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
Gasoline Alley Coffee (325 Lafayette) — Free Shop Small-branded brownies to the first 200 customers who purchase a beverage (10 a.m. 7 p.m.)
Check out americanexpress.com/us/small-business/shop-small on where to find participating stores near you.