CAPITAL REGION -- Local businesses agreed that Small Business Saturday this year once again helped to promote shopping.
Lauren Chatnik, the owner of June's Gift Boutique in Amsterdam, said her store has participated in past Small Business Saturdays and this weekend's edition was stronger than recent years.
"It was better this year than last year for sure. We had people coming in for a variety of items: jewelry, clothing, scarves and Christmas ornaments. Our best seller has been Pandora by far with general accessories a close second," she said.
Small Business Saturday began as an event created by credit card company American Express in 2010 and has grown in popularity each year.
According to data from the most recent 2017 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey, released by National Federation of Independent Business and American Express, last year an estimated 108 million consumers reported shopping or dining at local independently-owned businesses on Small Business Saturday. The survey found that 70 percent of U.S consumers are aware of the concept of Small Business Saturday, which typically includes promotional sales and business group support.
The businesses on Jay Street in Schenectady were bustling with customers Saturday, including the Open Door Bookstore.
Lillian Bertalan, assistant manager at The Open Door Bookstore, said she believes the promotion of Small Business Saturday by the Capital Region Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation definitely helped increase traffic at the store.
"The community always comes out in full force in support of us and other small businesses," she said. "We have a varied collection of items here, but books are doing very well today. People still enjoy having a book in hand."
One of the small business touches at The Open Door Bookstore includes a Staff and Bookstore Choices aisle, with staff-written notes about each of the books. Schenectady resident Susan Comenzo, who was at the store Saturday, said every day could be Small Business Saturday for her because she prefers the customer attention she receives at a small retailer instead of big box store.
"I like that they have a very knowledgeable staff. If you don't know what you want or you're looking for something they can help you find it," she said.
At Lennon's Irish Shop, which specializes in products either made in Ireland or having an Irish theme, customer traffic could perhaps best be gauged by store owner Dale May's 150-pound Irish wolfhound. May said the dog normally gets up and down everytime his door opens, but after awhile she quit paying attention Saturday because it kept opening so much. He said the top selling item for him so far this season has been authentic Irish wool sweaters, which he attributes, partially, to their being snow on the ground, a classic holiday shopping motivator.
"It's a little different that a few years ago when it was it was 70 degrees out," he said.
Mother and daughter Debi and Cassidy Lent were shopping at local retail newcomer the DillyBean on Saturday. Debi said she likes the cookie brands carried by Dillybean, a local foods focused grocery store. She said Small Business Saturday was part of why she wanted to go shopping on Saturday.
"It's because we love our city. We want to give back to the community here," she said.
Cassidy said she graduated from Schenectady High School in 2006 and has since moved to Cooperstown. She said the economy of Schenectady has clearly improved a lot since her youth.
"There's a lot more shopping here now than when I was growing up. It's great to see the city kind of revive itself again," she said.
"The city is just giving us so many more options now," Debi said. "We've been to three of four different stores today."
According to the 2017 Small Business Saturday 50-State Survey, many shoppers made Small Business Saturday an all-day affair, as 58 percent of those who participated in the event reported shopping or dining at more than one small, independently-owned retailer or restaurant. According to the survey, at the national level, 48 percent of consumers who participated in Small Business Saturday also reported visiting a small business that they had not previously been to.
For Elizabeth Hathaway, a resident of Gloversville, the Blue Bird Home Décore, located on State Street, is a store she used to go to in Troy, but now she goes to its new location in Schenectady.
"It's because we like supporting local. Obviously, today, we're out for Christmas things today. Word of mouth is key, it's about supporting the locals, instead of the big commercial businesses. Hopefully, we're getting back to that now," she said.
Blue Bird Home Décore store manager Shelly Broughton, whose daughter Nicolle owns the store, said the hottest selling item at the store this holiday season has been the berry garlands for Christmas trees.
"We just moved here from Troy, where we were for five years. We decided to move to Schenectady to expand the business. We kind of knew that Small Business Saturday would be good, because it was good in Troy, but coming here we weren't sure what to expect. I think, in general, the concept of Small Business Saturday is so well promoted now, and people have really embraced it. People are tired of the malls, and they want to promote small businesses, and there's more and more things happening in downtown Schenectady," she said.