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Small Business Saturday: ‘One-on-one interaction’

“Shop Small,” a special section jam-packed full of local and area businesses in support of Small Business Saturday, is inside today’s Times Observer.

In an era of big-box stores and online shopping, Small Business Saturday is intended to help the little guy.

“Small Business Saturday is a national movement intended to encourage folks to look to their local retail businesses for their holiday shopping needs as opposed to looking to the national chain stores or internet to make their purchases,” Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry President and CEO Jim Decker said.

There’s no shopping at midnight in one’s pajamas in the plan.

“I feel confident in saying that all small, independent retailers face significant challenges in competing with national chain retailers and the internet,” Decker said. “These challenges include marketing and advertising capacity, depth of available inventory, and hours of operation.”

“The American consumer has become impatient when it comes to availability and receipt of the product, a situation driven by the efficiency and convenience of internet shopping,” he said.

There is nothing personal about a big box store nor shopping on a website.

Small businesses have the advantage there.

“One-on-one interaction with their customers,” Decker said. “The advantage of knowing what a particular customer likes and wants and holding the ability to point that customer to a particular item that perhaps they hadn’t realized they needed yet.”

“The ability to interact with a customer from this position of knowledge and awareness sets the local retailer way ahead of the internet or any national chain store,” he said.

Small businesses aren’t just familiar with their customers, they’re familiar with their stores and products.

“The other advantage is the depth of understanding of their particular products or services,” Decker said. “Local retailers love what they sell. They understand how their products work and can educate their customers far better than their major competitors that offer primarily greater selection and the perception of lower prices.”

Locally, some small businesses are doing well. Some, not as well.

But they all could use help.

“They need all of us to look at our list of holiday buying needs and wants and look to see which of those items is available locally,” Decker said. “They need us to stop into their stores with the objective of finding what we ‘need’ to fill our shopping lists. They need us to look beyond the price tag and recognize that these businesses support our communities directly and deserve our attention and support.

The expectation is that small businesses will be able to hold onto customers who step through the door better than their big-box competition.

“Local retailers rely on customer loyalty which is developed through personal relationship building and direct customer service,” Decker said.

The WCCBI is like the rest of the year of Small Business Saturday.

For members, “we offer free email distribution to our full contact list of roughly 400 individuals, announcements regarding special sales or events or hours of operation of their business,” Decker said. “We refer individuals looking for goods and services to local businesses offering those goods and services.”

And, WCCBI maintains “an on-line directory which includes businesses throughout Warren County regardless of their membership status,” he said. “This directory sorts businesses based upon products and services provided to improve local resident and visitor ability to find purveyors of items needed locally. Expanded listings within the directory are available to member businesses to highlight and further explain their business offerings.”

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