Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

November 27, 2012

Small business owners succeed in the anti-Black Friday event

Jackson Adams
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — While Black Friday is one of the most important shopping days of the year for the big box retailers, Saturday has a different meaning for small business owners nationwide.

Small Business Saturday, which began in 2010 after being promoted by American Express, is an annual shopping day taking place the Saturday after Thanksgiving, encouraging shoppers to patronize local independent retailers. This year, the Effingham County Chamber of Commerce did its part to help local businesses capitalize on the event.

"We're always encouraging people to shop locally," said Katie Koester, program coordinator and board secretary for the chamber. "A lot of people were really excited about this."

To encourage area shoppers to check out local stores, Koester said the chamber gave out American Express gift cards, encouraging shoppers to use the money at local stores.

"We had $225 in gift cards," she said. "We started giving them away in the morning and by 8:45, they were gone."

This is the chamber of commerce's first year encouraging shoppers to take advantage of Small Business Saturday, although Koester said there were some bumps in the road.

"We heard back from a lot of the stores saying that they couldn't use the cards," she said. "It's really too bad."

Cody Willenborg, owner of CW Motorsports, was one of them.

"I think that one of the biggest issues this that there's probably not a small business in town that has the equipment to read those American Express cards," he said. "We had three customers come in and try to use the cards and couldn't. They didn't buy anything else. They just went to Walmart."

Other business owners said despite any problems, the chamber's help with Small Business Saturday at least brought new customers into their stores.

"It was great," said Lisa Schafer, who owns Baseball Card Connection with her husband, Jon. "We just wanted to thank the chamber for putting it all together."

Despite the problems, Willenborg said he hopes to be a part of Small Business Saturday again next year.

"I think it's an awesome idea," he said. "It's a wonderful thing. Hopefully we can do it again next year and work some of the kinks out."

Jackson Adams can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 131, or jackson.adams@effinghamdailynews.com.