For the third year in a row, shoppers who stick to small business this season can be rewarded in Carroll by the Small Business Saturday Shopping Passport.
The program will begin on the official Small Business Saturday, Nov. 24, and run through the following Sunday, Dec. 2. Shoppers can pick up a passport at participating businesses.
In Carroll, participants can get a stamp on their passport for each business they patronize. Once the passport has been filled with eight stamps, shoppers can turn them in at any public library branch or town hall by Dec. 5. From the completed passports, organizers will chose 20 to receive a $50 gift certificate good at any of the participating businesses.
The program has grown since last year, with 172 business participating, up from 144, said Sandra Anderson, the City of Westminster’s Main Street Manager. Businesses from Eldersburg, Finksburg, Hampstead, Manchester, Mount Airy, New Windsor, Sykesville, Taneytown, Union Bridge and Westminster are participating.
Anderson said the organizers have gotten feedback from the past two years that businesses are excited to participate in the passport program.
She hopes Carroll residents will think about shopping local throughout the holiday season.
“Holiday shopping isn’t always a breeze. There’s someone on each of our gift lists who seems impossible to buy for,” Anderson said. “Shopping local will help you find that personal, unique, and memorable gift. These treasures are tucked away in local downtown shops, waiting to be discovered.
“And while out shopping, enjoy some of the best fare our restaurants have to offer.”
The concept of Small Business Saturday was coined in 2010 by American Express, according to a news release from the company. According to the new Small Business Economic Impact Study from American Express, an average two-thirds of every dollar spent at a small business stays in the local community.
Lisa Eline, owner of Petals Flowers & Gifts LLC in Hampstead, said they have hope this year that participating in a variety of activities from the passport program to a Christmas farmers market in the town will mean a uptick in business as well as a fun time for customers.
Last year, road work on Main Street right in front of the business made things more difficult, she said.
Their Small Business Saturday plans include treats and hot chocolate as well as discounted items.
Nationwide [supporting small business] is important,” she said. “Small businesses keep people working. … With Amazon and everything online, it’s a challenge.”
Small businesses mean “personal service and a personal touch,” she said. “We’re not just order-takers out there on the web.”
Last year was the first time Vanessa Newman and her Manchester business Created and Company participated in the Small Business Saturday program. With more than a year’s difference, Newman said their customer base has grown since that time for the shop which itself is a collection of small business owners and artisans’ products under one roof.
Throughout the weekend beginning with Black Friday, they will have discounts on gifts from candles and soaps to funky socks and handmade leather earrings.
Newman said a sentiment that has made the rounds on social media among creators summed up how meaningful each customer is in her line of work.
“When you shop small, someone actually does a happy dance, because we’re directly impacted by each sale,” she said.
In Westminster at the Spa at West Main, Manager Amy Barnes said participating in the passport program didn’t make a huge difference in sales for the spa or the associated boutique, LUX, but they were happy to participate and be involved with the downtown.
The holiday season is already a busy one for their industry and they will have specials starting Black Friday and running throughout December including raffles to win gift cards or an iPad Mini.
For the owners of Tri Sport Junction in Sykesville, Jane Linde and Donna Larkin, Small Business Saturday and the holiday season were a time when the downtown retailers came together. It’s not uncommon for a business owner to recommended that customers check out their neighbors down the street as well.
“I think it’s a pretty neat way to connect the main street,” Linde said.
Some customers have come in with plans to hit all eight businesses in one day during small business Saturday, while others have spread their travels throughout the municipalities over the week.
They hope that discounts on gift cards and raffles will encourage shoppers to stop buy and shop small in general.