Small Business Saturday hailed as big success for Harford's Main Street

Black Friday may be known for making the biggest holiday retail splash, but Small Business Saturday also got rave reviews from Bel Air's local business community this year.

The shopping promotion, a nationwide initiative that is designed to piggyback on Black Friday's success, drew scores of shoppers to the Main Street area this past weekend, according to local merchants.

The day proved popular because it was heavily promoted by everyone from national organizations to Gov. Martin O'Malley's office and the Maryland Office of Tourism, Scott Walker, executive director of Bel Air Downtown Alliance, said.

"It was awesome. It was a phenomenal success," Walker said about the event. "Main Street was absolutely packed on Saturday. All the merchants had great things to say about it."

Walker said he heard from people who were familiar with the national initiative launched this year by American Express.

"I knew people saying they came out because we were promoting it or because they heard about it. It was part of a national campaign," he said. "There was a lot more promotion from all different angles … It made a huge difference this year."

Several Main Street merchants said Small Business Saturday was a major success.

Toni McCracken, of Tiger Lily boutique, said she heard from people at Towson Town Center Mall that there was less traffic because customers were focused on small businesses instead.

"It was really, really great," McCracken said. "It did help business, and I think the overall extensive promotion of Small Business Saturday really helped."

She said the store had a few promotions, but mostly stuck to the sticker price.

Nevertheless, "scarves were absolutely going crazy," she said about sales. "Everybody found something. Our store was packed all day."

Tianna VanSpriell, of Everything Goes! Consignments, said customers likewise flocked to her store, where she was offering a 50 percent discount on all holiday decorations, as well as a deal on gift certificates.

"I think it was a wonderful event. I thought whoever was behind it did a really good job," VanSpriell said.

She said customers mentioned Small Business Saturday without having to be asked.

"It definitely drew people into town," she said, noting she was selling decorations not just for Christmas, but for everything from Halloween to New Year's Eve.

"The holiday decorations flew out of here," she said.

Debbie Haywood, of Two Sisters Gallery, said many customers seemed aware of the American Express sponsorship behind the day.

"We had a fabulous day," she said. "More than half our sales were American Express that day … They really promoted it well on business and radio."

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