Big-box retailers may be preparing for Black Friday but for small, family-owned shops, this time of the year is just as important for business. However, it’s not always easy for smaller retailers to compete.
Shopping in the village of La Jolla is far different than walking through your local mall. Still, shopkeepers in the village are also trying to make a living, which is sometimes easier said than done.
Philip Coller owns Everett Stunz on Girard Avenue. It’s a high-end store for beds, bathroom items and linens.
And, though serious competition from big-name retailers is inevitable, Coller says a store like his offers something big retailers can’t match.
“You create a sense of community. You don’t get a sense of community from a big-box store or a shopping mall,” he said.
Still, Coller admits business isn’t always booming during the height of shopping season.
“Particularly for the last five [years], it’s been horrendous,” he lamented.
Across the street, the clothing store Emma Jane gets ready for its first La Jolla Black Friday. The brand-new retailer just set up shop two months ago.
Owner Jennifer Alexander says Black Friday, and the holiday shopping season, is very important to the success of her new small business.
“It’s the most important thing. It’s going to fund us through January, February, March – when retail is actually going down,” said Alexander.
But, in order to get customers in the door, small business owners have to get shoppers to bypass the big department stores and online merchants, and show up where local retailers are sometimes struggling to survive.
For some local shoppers, visiting small stores is second nature.
“My wife shops a lot online, but if I’m going to have $100, I like to spend at least $70 or $80 of it with local communities like where we work or coming down to La Jolla Village,” said one consumer. “It’s nice to spend money in the local communities and obviously keep it in San Diego.”
“I can’t say I never shop in a big-box store, but I far prefer to shop at a small business,” added another San Diegan.
“I like to patronize the regular local people, and I think it’s important for our country,” said another shopper.
Now, it’s much harder for the smaller stores to compete on prices with big-box stores like Target and Wal-Mart, so they have to find other ways of getting consumers through the door.
“The way you compete this time of year, particularly, is service,” said Coller.
Small business owners hope that service will be enough to get people into their stores during this holiday season. Just like the major chain stores, the road the economic success is often found the last few shopping weeks of the year.
Now, a few years back the American Express credit card company and others started Small Business Saturday, the day after Black Friday dedicated to shopping small and local.
This year, Small Business Saturday lands on Nov. 30.
In San Diego, communities like La Jolla Village and North Park will partake in Small Business Saturday, highlighting small merchants and communities in an effort to fuel the local economy.