Central Avenue is home to a myriad of locally owned small businesses, many of which depend on Small Business Saturday. Photo: Edge District.
By Mark Parker
Sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday is a shopping holiday vital to the viability of small businesses and the health of local economies: Small Business Saturday.
American Express launched Small Business Saturday in 2010 as a way to redirect holiday shoppers and keep local merchants afloat during the height of the Great Recession. A year later, the Senate passed a resolution recognizing Small Business Saturday, and all 50 states now observe the shopping holiday.
This Saturday, Nov. 27, small businesses everywhere are trying to adapt to a post-Covid landscape. St. Pete included.
“Honestly, I think small businesses are what make up the fabric that makes St. Petersburg so unique,” said Sara Stoneciper, owner of MISRED Outfitters on Central Avenue. “I don’t think people are moving to St. Pete because of Tyrone Mall.”
According to American Express’s recent Shop Small Study, 56% of local merchants said this year’s Small Business Saturday is more important than ever. Furthermore, 78% of those surveyed said holiday sales will impact their ability to keep the doors open in 2022. Luckily, 80% of consumers stated they are likely to shop small this holiday season.
Stoneciper believes St. Petersburg, with over 250 small businesses along the waterfront and Central Avenue, is uniquely suited for the shopping holiday.
“It definitely creates a different vibe from anywhere else in the state of Florida,” she said. “The fact that we have such a huge collection of them in such a small, walkable area is something people are really seeking out these days.”
The current supply chain issues, Stoneciper added, should be another incentive for shopping local. When someone shops online this year, she said, their purchase may not arrive in time for Christmas – if it arrives at all.
“You can come into a small business and not only get something unique -and half the time handmade – but you’ll also walk out of the store with a gift in hand,” states Stoneciper. “You won’t have to worry about if it’s going to be there, and you know where your money is going.
“It’s staying local and staying within the community.”
Central Avenue is home to nearly 75 retailers and features over 100 restaurants and 75 beverage spots.
“You can’t get the same walkability,” Stoneciper said. “Walk into a business, and the business owner is there. You really get to know your neighbors and the community.”
And Keep St. Petersburg Local’s Shopapalooza Festival is back at Vinoy Park this year after taking 2020 off because of the pandemic. The event will feature over 300 vendors on both Saturday and Sunday (10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily).
Shopapalooza was created to highlight local artists and small businesses, but not everyone, Stoneciper said, has the resources and staff to participate.
“It has really devastated the brick and mortars the last couple of years, and so people have been doing it,” she said. “This year, we just don’t have the staff.
“I can barely staff my own store, let alone to go and do a bunch of popups.”
Stoneciper explained that small business owners spend months preparing for Small Business Saturday, repairing and decorating their storefronts for a day that could mean the difference between profitability and going under after the holidays. She speaks with 30-40 businesses a day, “and we’re all very nervous.”
She also stressed that she fully supports St. Pete’s makers and notes how 90% of her accessories are made by local women. She also features local vendor spotlights throughout her store and says she is constantly telling their stories.
“I started small too,” she said. “It’s just this particular day.
“This should be the shining day for small businesses.”
For more information on Small Business Saturday on Central, including a block-by-block listing of brick and mortars, visit its website here.
For more information on the Shopapalooza Festival, visit its website here.