Area gears up for small business sales

Area businesses are looking to attract weekend holiday shoppers with more local options as part of initiatives for Plaid Friday and Small Business Saturday.

Black Friday may draw swaths of bargain hunters to big box stores with big savings, but local stores are creating a welcoming and homey atmosphere for shoppers out on both days with demonstrations, classes, tastings and treats.

Cheri Wright, executive director of the Shenandoah County Chamber of Commerce, said local shops give customers a cozier and more pleasant shopping experience, rather than adding to holiday stressors.

“In a small business, everybody is always right there,” she said. “Especially during these next few days, you’ll find such warmth and fuzziness when you walk into a small business.”

Wright said that businesses up and down the county are putting their own spin on the shopping holiday – the New Market Chamber of Commerce is hosting an open house from 5 to 7 p.m. at their office and Valley Treasures in Woodstock will be turning the shopping holiday into its first Customer Appreciation Day with live music and door prizes.

Top of Virginia Regional Chamber Executive Officer Christine Kriz said that while many shops with the Winchester Downtown Business Association have been sporting plaid the day after Thanksgiving for a few years, this is the first time the chamber has assisted their members with materials for Small Business Saturday. The chamber distributed promotional materials like banners and balloons from American Express, which started the initiative in 2010.

“We could reach out to American Express as a chamber and get materials for businesses much easier than the businesses could,” she said. “We went out and hand delivered and we gave them bags and the marketing kit and ideas.”

Cheryl Anderson, owner and operator of the Old Town Antique Emporium that opened in July on the Loudoun Street Pedestrian Mall, said she decked the store to the nines with plaid ribbons and is waiting to roll out a welcome mat for Saturday.

“This is our first go around for everything,” she said. “I can’t say how it’s going to go but I’m sure it’ll go fine, I’m looking forward to it. We anticipate being very busy.”

Besides the backing of American Express, Downtown Manager Jennifer Bell said the biggest observable difference between the back-to-back shopping days is the timing – whereas Small Business Saturday is more of an all-day affair, stores that sport plaid on Friday tend to get the most customers in the early morning.

“I’d say they make it a point out of being open earlier hours for people that want to do a full day of shopping,” she said.

Niki Foster said this is the third year the Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce has been a “neighborhood champion” of the shopping holiday. She said stores both downtown and across the county are adding their own bit of flair to make an event out of the shopping day.

“I think they’re all participating differently,” she said. “The sales might be a little better … you’ve also got businesses owners that understand the value of being unique.”

Those unique gifts and unusual finds, combined with a bit of welcoming hospitality, are what local business owners hope will get them their own share of holiday foot traffic.

“I think the main push is to get people thinking outside of the box – so to speak – and do some of their shopping locally,” Foster said.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com