Dozens of small independent businesses are putting out blue-and-white welcome mats with the program’s “Shop Small” logo. American Express cardholders who registered for the event can obtain a $25 credit for their spending at participating stores, and many merchants are offering their own discounts to lure shoppers.
Most Corridor communities have a scattering of businesses participating in Small Business Saturday, but not too many. Pam Hinman, spokesman for the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, said she wasn’t aware of any specific Cedar Rapids businesses offering the program, although she said she knew some are participating.
But in downtown Iowa City, Small Business Saturday is still adding more merchants this year. Iowa City Downtown District Executive Director Nancy Bird said participation by downtown merchants is up about 50 percent this year.
“We’ve had some retailers who’ve had good luck with it, and some of them had really good traffic last year,” Bird said.
Karen Kubby of Beadology, which sells beading supplies across from The Englert Theater at 220 E. Washington St., enrolled as a participant this year after signing up with a different merchant service that made American Express transactions more affordable.
“I’m hoping people will be so excited about the shopping opportunities in downtown Iowa City that they will want to come both Friday and Saturday,” Kubby said.
Manager Dave Nerad of Active Endeavors, 138 S. Clinton St., said he could tell last year that customers were aware of the observance, and the store got a good share of American Express payments. He said the store will be running a 20 percent off promotion again this year to dovetail with the event.
At Yotopia, 132 S. Clinton St., owner Veronica Tessler plans to offer three free ounces of frozen yogurt with a purchase to anyone who brings in a receipt from another downtown retail shop.
“A lot of retail shops are offering specials,” she said. “We hope to see a big turnout.”
Kubby, the co-owner of Beadology, said she also encourages customers to consider participating in the 3/50 Project, which urges consumers to spend $50 per month at three of their favorite independent local retailers.
While Kubby like’s Small Business Saturday, she wants customers to know that charging items on American Express — or any other credit card for that matter — isn’t necessarily the best way to support local businesses because of the transaction fees they charge merchants.
“If you really want to help a local business, the best way to do it is spend cash,” she said. “They (the merchant) keep more of the money, and more of the money stays local.”
Small Business Saturday is one of several holiday observances the downtown Iowa City merchants are sponsoring. Others include the Snowflake Stroll from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., Nov. 30, featuring Christmas decorations and window displays, and Celebrate the Season, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., on Dec. 1, with carriage rides, a glass-blowing demonstration and a visit from Santa, among other events.