Holiday shoppers get extra incentives in many towns to go small on Saturday.
Small Business Saturday will come with drawings for prizes, Christmas tree lightings and other attractions to encourage shoppers normally using Amazon or heading for big-box stores to spend some of their holiday dollars with local merchants.
The day designed to draw attention to small businesses during the holiday shopping season apparently has touched a chord with at least a portion of the public looking for a more local variety of consumerism.
“Small Business Saturday is always a good day for us around here,” said Tiffany Johnson, co-owner of Audiophil’s Records in downtown Joliet. “People like to come out and support.”
In Joliet, like many communities, Small Business Saturday also gets a boost from holiday festivities that help draw the public to downtown areas where many independent retailers and restaurants are located.
Joliet holds its Light-Up the Holidays Festival and Parade on Friday, a day before Small Business Saturday. The daylong event starts at 10 a.m., providing family activities throughout downtown and culminating with the parade at 5:30 p.m.
But parade-goers are encouraged to come back downtown the next day to shop around and dine at local restaurants.
Many downtown businesses participate In the Light-Up the Holidays Festival and Parade, opening their doors for the thousands of potential customers who come downtown and create foot traffic not normally seen.
“Some people might not come out here on any other day than that day,” Johnson said.
Those who do come back Saturday can participate in a promotion in which shoppers can get what are called passports stamped to enter a drawing for a gift basket valued at more than $600 and featuring contributions from nine downtown Joliet businesses.
Downtown Plainfield retailers and restaurants have a similar passport promotion, and the gift basket is valued at $750, said Rhonda Tuminello, an employee at DNA Active Lifestyle Outfitters.
“I think Small Business Saturday has gotten more and more popular,” Tuminello said. “People want to support small business and shop locally.”
Merchants get into the holiday spirit, many of them featuring specials to create what Tuminello called “a fun shopping environment.”
Downtown Plainfield will feature a variety of activities, including Grinchmas on the Green, in which the Plainfield Park District will bring both the Grinch and Santa to the Village Green for an event that starts at 4 p.m. and culminates with the lighting of the village Christmas tree at 5:15 p.m.
The Plymouth Congregation Church lights the creche that has been a Christmas feature of Plainfield for decades at 7:15 p.m.
The Plainfield Public Library hosts a holiday market from 5 to 8 p.m., where “you’re going to meet people who do crafts and some young entrepreneurs as well,” said Tasha Marsaglia, executive director of the Plainfield Shorewood Chamber of Commerce, which helps promote the activities.
Lockport holds its Christmas in the Square from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Central Square, 222 E. 9th St.
The event includes an artificial ice rink, a snowball fight field, carolers and a wide array of holiday activities.
Meanwhile, Small Business Saturday has been celebrated all over town since Sunday, said Annette Parker, executive director of the Lockport Chamber of Commerce.
Lockport has been holding a Shop and Win promotion in which shoppers are eligible for cash prices of $250, $150 and $100.
“It’s for any Lockport Chamber of Commerce member,” Parker said. “We did it before, but we’re really trying to push it this year.”
Shoppers at chamber businesses have been getting one entry for every $5 spent since Sunday. But on Small Business Saturday, they get an entry for every $1 spent.
Small Business Saturday was started in 2010.
The promotions help draw customers. The holiday events help build foot traffic. And the independent retailers can provide a change of pace for shoppers.
“There are unique gifts that you can’t find anywhere else,” said Priscilla Cordero, executive director of the Joliet City Center Partnership, which promotes downtown business.
There also may be something fundamental about it that makes shopping small for the holidays worthwhile.
“You can’t replicate the experience of going door to door and meeting merchants who really care about their community,” Cordero said.