On a recent picture-perfect day in mid-November, local residents were beginning their holiday shopping, excited about the prospects of the season ahead. To a person, they were enthusiastic about shopping at local small stores, evidenced by loaded shopping bags.

As that optimism continues, look for a successful “Shop Small Business Season” in Western North Carolina.

“I love supporting local small businesses,” said Anne Nicholson of Sylva. “I love everything about small local shops, the people, the friendliness, the quality of the items, everything. When you shop locally, you can pick things up, and you know if you like something, with no surprises and having the hassle to send things back.”

Kelley Quigley of Waynesville estimates she will purchase at least 80 percent of her holiday gifts locally through small shops.

“I enjoy giving unique items that are more meaningful, that someone will remember,” she said. “Shopping locally allows you to be more specific, more deliberate about what give. And I love supporting local artists and craftspersons — we are so lucky to have so many talented artists in our area.”

“Shop Small Business Season” is a season-long extension of the original one-day Small Business Saturday. It is being promoted locally by the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce, Maggie Valley Chamber of Commerce, Haywood Community College Small Business Center, Downtown Waynesville Association and the new Canton Merchants Association.

Founded by American Express in 2010, Small Business Saturday is celebrated the Saturday after Thanksgiving, falling between the promotions of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, in which sales through big box stores and online retailers tend to eclipse small, locally owned retailers.

Effective local promotions, as well as an appeal to community support, has resulted in a growing awareness and increasing sales of shopping small businesses. Since it began in 2010, consumers have reported spending nearly $140 billion across the 11 Small Business Saturdays combined.

“Shop Small Business Season” in Haywood County begins Saturday, Nov. 27, and continues through the Christmas and year-end season.

“Other Chambers across the country have begun promoting the season, not just one day, and we think this is great,” said CeCe Hipps, President, Haywood County Chamber of Commerce.

Having a season-long promotion ties into all the events of the season, and it helps build a continual awareness of the importance of shopping local and thinking local.

Hipps noted that for every $1 spent at a local business, 67 cents stays local. Of that, 44 cents goes to a local small business owner and employee benefits and wages. That’s money that is being reinvested in our own communities, creating a multiple positive effect going forward.

Ashley Swanger, director of the Small Business Center at Haywood Community College, noted that Shop Small Business Season encourages small businesses to work with each other to cross promote, create unique social media posts and encourage a welcoming atmosphere throughout the downtown areas.

“It helps businesses help businesses. With COVID and the flooding disaster this year, we know more than ever that our success is about community and working together,” she said.

“Residents and visitors will be seeing the Shop Small Business logo on marquees throughout the region, throughout the entire season,” said Hipps. “We’ve had a good, very positive fall season and are looking forward to a very successful fourth quarter.”

Personal connection

Shop Small Business Season helps celebrate the uniqueness of our WNC communities — attracting both residents and visitors — creating local jobs and encouraging new entrepreneurship. Different types of shops means a broader range of products, and employees of local businesses often take the time to get to know and serve customers in a way online businesses cannot compete.

It’s the emphasis on community connection and engagement which drive Diane and Don Horth of Waynesville to shop locally.

“It makes you feel connected,” both agreed while shopping with a visiting friend from Buffalo, New York. “You feel like you are part of a family, and you are building a sense of community that can’t be beat.”

The Horths also noted the Haywood County flooding of August 2021.

“Our community has been through so very much. When you shop local, you are giving back to the community. Your dollars stay here and recirculate. We need that more than ever,” Diane Horth said.

Teresa Smith, executive director, Maggie Valley Chamber of Commerce, noted that many shops offer a variety of discounts, special items for children and refreshments through the holiday season.

“We’ve had a really good year, a good leaf season, and are hoping for more good days ahead,” she said.

Beth Gilmore, interim director of Downtown Waynesville Association, also noted she’s hearing much optimism about the upcoming Shop Small Business Season, with busy streets, new stores and shoppers anxious to frequent bricks and mortar stores again for their holiday needs.

Jeanne Forrest, president of Canton Merchants Association, said she’s optimistic about the holiday events ahead in Canton.

“We’re a scrappy little town with the best people. We pull together,” she said.

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