BY Jill Cowan Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Area business owners and the United States Small Business Administration want you to "shop small, buy local" this weekend on Small Business Saturday, a nationally promoted shopping holiday slotted for the second year between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
But in Bakersfield, where big, corporate-run stores rule the retail roost, it seems that message hasn't yet hit its target -- local shoppers.
Officials ranging from President Barack Obama to the most conservative commentators agree that supporting small businesses is hugely beneficial to a community, because money spent at a small business feeds back into the local economy.
Nevertheless, said Christine Hennings, owner of downtown boutique Jezabelle's, "unfortunately (people don't) get supporting local business in this town."
As an added incentive, American Express has signed on to help promote Small Business Saturday by crediting pre-registered card users $25 back on their statements if they spend at least $25 at a participating small business that day.
Elizabeth Echols, regional administrator for the SBA, said Saturday is as much about helping local shops get that much-needed holiday boost as it is about raising awareness for the whole year.
"Even if you spend a little bit," she said, "one day is good but 365 days a year is even better."
She said small firms make up more than 99 percent of California's employers and two out of three net new jobs are created by small business nationwide.
Simply put, patronizing locally owned shops is, "supporting your friends and neighbors and their families," she said.
In return, said Laurie Price, co-owner of Snead's for Men off Stockdale Highway, local businesses try harder to take care of their customers.
"We know our customer, we shop for our customer specifically," she said, "and that's what a local business does."
Price runs Snead's with her husband, Mark. Snead Price, who opened the store more than two decades ago, is Mark's father. The store's in-house tailor has worked at the high-end menswear store for 23 years, Price said.
"It's kind of old-fashioned, even a little small town, in a way," she said, to "have the floor be clean and maybe have a cup of cider and a cookie" while shopping.
Price said she heard about Small Business Saturday a little too late to jump on it last year, but this year, she said she took advantage of the SBA's free marketing tools.
Saturday, she said, Snead's will have "trivia contests, kind of a holiday bar wil be out," and they'll offer 30 percent extra value on gift cards of $200 or more.
"For our sort of store, Black Friday does not make a difference to us," she said, so Snead's differentiates itself by making shopping more of a party than a scrum.
Angie Lundgren, who owns children's clothing boutique Shabby Girls on Rosedale Highway, said that on Small Business Saturday, "everything's going to be 25 percent off."
But to avoid the entire realm of Black Friday, she said her bigger holiday sale will be Dec. 10, when everything will be 25 to 50 percent off.
For that event, Lundgren said that Shabby Girls, like Snead's, will offer treats and beverages to shoppers, along with raffles and "lots of fun stuff for the kids."
"I think we have to make it an event, especially with my children's store," she said. "It's hard to compete with big business."
While Kylie Grove said all things considered she'd like to shop more at locally owned places, budgeting is a concern.
With almost 2.5 million "likes" on Facebook, it's no wonder that the 23-year-old Bakersfield native had heard about Small Business Saturday only through the social network.
Coming out of the Northwest Promenade Kohl's Tuesday evening, however, Grove said she didn't have any particular plans to shop local that day.
Grove said she loves bargain-hunting at Ross and T.J. Maxx, and she needs a new TV -- for which she'll be hitting up retail behemoth Target on Black Friday.
Donna and Powell Phillip, both retired, hadn't heard about Small Business Saturday.
But Tuesday, they said they "try to patronize local" when they can, and on larger purchases like cars they'd rather keep those tax dollars in the city, even if they can find a better deal elsewhere.
Still, said Donna Phillip, small businesses often "can't really make a good deal."
Ultimately, Hennings said Jezabelle's caters to a different audience entirely.
She said it galls her that the high-end boutique's wealthier clientele take their business to Los Angeles or Las Vegas, then complain about the condition of Bakersfield.
"If you come in here and you can't find an item that's one thing," Hennings said, but to dismiss local stores without giving them a chance is unfair, and perpetuates a kind of "domino effect" that makes it difficult for small businesses.
Hennings said the local shopping culture in Bakersfield is way behind other cities such as Austin, Tex., or even Fresno.
"Starting in October there should've been a big push and a cry, let's step up," she said. "We can take care of our city."