Richard Van Sickle was aware of the Small Business Saturday movement when he and his wife, Diane, walked into Imagine That Toys on Saturday afternoon.
But that was not the primary reason the Van Sickles were there.
“She has some of the best toys in town,” Richard said, motioning to store owner Gwen Ottenberg, owner of Imagine That.
And, Diane added, nearly their entire Christmas shopping list for their son’s children was for toys from the store at 2939 N. Rock Road.
Ottenberg and other local, independent retailers hesitated to attribute all their business activity to Small Business Saturday, since it is the first weekend of the holiday shopping season.
But they think it is having some positive effect.
“I’m thrilled,” Ottenberg said Saturday afternoon. “So far so good.”
Small Business Saturday is a promotion launched by American Express in 2010. The credit card company promotes the day through advertising and a website that points visitors to merchants in their area who accept the card. American Express also offers a $25 credit to cardholders who spend more than $25 with one of their merchants on Small Business Saturday.
Ottenberg said she had several customers who made purchases with their American Express cards.
But the concept of shopping exclusively at locally owned retailers the day after Black Friday appears to have taken on a life of its own. There were numerous references to Small Business Saturday on social media such as Facebook and Twitter, including from the White House and Gov. Sam Brownback, whose tweet said, “I encourage all Kansans to shop at local small biz today for #SmallBizSat.”
Nancy Robinson, owner of Best of Times, a card and gift shop at 6452 E. Central, said her business has benefitted from the promotion, even though she doesn’t accept the credit card.
“I have to give them credit,” Robinson said, “they have just made people stop and think about supporting local stores and how their money stays in the community.”
Robinson said she had several customers come in Saturday “mentioning they wanted to support me today.”
Some local merchants were also using Twitter and Facebook to promote themselves and Small Business Saturday.
GoRun Wichita, which operates east and west Wichita stores, was offering free socks to customers who spent more than $25 and posted about their purchases on Facebook or Twitter.
“We gave away quite a few socks with that (promotion),” said co-owner Kevin Swinicki. “It wasn’t the same volume (of business) as yesterday but we’re very happy with how today turned out, so I think it definitely helps.”
Valerie Reimers, owner of gift and jewelry store Lucinda’s at 329 N. Mead in Old Town, also was offering a promotion on Facebook in which customers who spent $50 received for free a $20 gift bag of locally made products. Reimers said this is the second year her shop — an American Express merchant — has promoted Small Business Saturday.
While Black Friday was in past years Lucinda’s busiest day, Small Business Saturday last year topped Black Friday. And she thinks this year could be a repeat.
“I think it’s just a good cause to educate people about the importance of (shopping locally owned businesses),” Reimers said. “The word is really out there.”