Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, gets more attention in the media as a peak shopping day, but the day after — Small Business Saturday — might be a more important day, according to local businesspeople.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been brutal on small businesses that often don't have the resources to weather sharp economic downturns. Small businesses are key not only to the community's economic health but to the nation's.
Julie Lawton, president of the Homewood Business Association, said more than 99% of the 31.7 million businesses in the country, are in the small business category of less than 500 employees.
Nine months into the pandemic, most Homewood and Flossmoor small businesses are still going, an indication that local shoppers already know how valuable those businesses are to the community.
"Shopping local is extremely important," she said. "People have so many choices."
Lawton noted what local shops offer that big retailers might not is a selection of unique items and unbeatable customer service.
"It's personal for us. Customer service matters," she said.
The trend in recent decades, though, has been for more and more commerce to migrate online. The pandemic has given a huge boost to that practice as people shop online for safety reasons, as well as convenience.
Just as Black Friday is reputed to be one day that contributes significantly to retailers' bottom lines, Small Business Saturday gives a needed boost to small local shops.
"It is one of our busiest days of the year," Lawton said. She runs Upsa Daisy boutique in downtown Homewood with two partners, Julie Smith and Suzie Moore. "People support us all the time, but that day they show up. It makes a difference to the bottom line. It keeps us going."
Small Business Saturday is an annual promotion that was started by American Express in 2010 during the previous great recession because "small businesses are at the core of every successful neighborhood."
The Shop Small website sponsored by American Express includes a map showing participating businesses in any given area.
Leading up to Thanksgiving, local business owners were expressing gratitude for their loyal and supportive customers, who have helped keep them afloat during an historic economic downturn and slow, unstable recovery.
HBA members collaborated on a video that gave them an opportunity to thank the community for its support.
(Video by Anne Colton)
In an interview with the Chronicle on Nov. 21, Morgan Sullins, who owns Gypsy Fix boutique in downtown Flossmoor admitted she was amazed to still be in business after all the challenges of 2020. She opened her shop four days before Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a stay-at-home order in March that shut down all non-essential businesses.
"I honestly thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown. There's no reason I should be standing," she said. "The people here are amazing. This town totally rallied and supported this store."
Shoppers in both villages will have a chance on Saturday to again show their support for their cherished local businesses.