Photo: Diego Mendoza-Moyers
It was another record-breaking Black Friday weekend as shoppers turned out nationwide to support local businesses, as well as online retailers.
Shoppers spent $17.8 billion on Small Business Saturday at independently owned restaurants and retailers across the country — a record for the retail holiday that was launched in 2010 by American Express.
Total sales over the nine Small Businesses Saturdays since 2010 have exceeded $100 billion, according to the 2018 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey conducted by American Express.
In the Capital Region, separate events throughout the area brought consumers to major shopping hubs, including River street in downtown Troy, the Stockade Historic District in Schenectady, and downtown Albany.
“I think that current shoppers, while they enjoy the online experience, they also really understand the importance and impact of shopping locally,” said Georgette Steffens, executive director of the Downtown Albany Business Improvement District. “I think that people want an experience, so shopping locally is an experience. They are getting products that they won’t find online or at a (chain) retail store.”
A separate survey by American Express of small business owners found that 70 percent of respondents said Small Business Saturday had improved their sales. Three-quarters said the day also brought in new and more customers.
And those independent businesses said they expect nearly 30 percent of all annual sales to take place during the holiday shopping season, while 59 percent of business owners said Small Business Saturday contributes significantly to their yearly holiday sales, according to American Express.
Younger consumers are drawn more to an experience than to a product, which local businesses can provide through social media and planned events, Steffens said.
She said millennial consumers often will go somewhere they can sample a product, meet the maker or the business owner, and purchase higher quality, locally made products.
“People have a love of place, the community that they’re from,” Steffens said. “You want to share and brag about the community that you live in. I think that connection to your community continues to really be important and I think there’s a more conscious consumer these days.”
Ted Potrikus, president and CEO of the Retail Council of New York State, did caution against consumers only focusing on small businesses during the one Saturday each year.
“It’s like ‘OK this is Small Business Saturday so this is the one day that I’m obliged to go out and and support small business. And the danger can be that we do it and check it off our to-do list,” Potrikus said. “You can’t do that. If you don’t see them next week, they’re not going to be in business.”
On the online side of retail, sales from Thanksgiving Thursday through Cyber Monday outpaced projections, according to Adobe’s 2018 Retail Shopping Insights report.
Online Black Friday sales topped $6.2 billion, ahead of the retail holiday’s sales projection of $5.9 billion, according to Adobe.
On Thanksgiving, online shoppers spent $3.7 billion, up from the $3.35 billion estimate.
From Nov. 1 to Nov. 26, Adobe found that online consumers spent over $58 billion, with 30 percent of those purchases made from a smartphone.
Apple’s U.S. App Store saw more users download retail applications onto their iPhones, as well.
On Black Friday, Walmart’s app was downloaded by 95,000 first time users, while Target’s app installs topped 62,000 that same day, according to data from Sensor Tower, a mobile measurement firm that helps developers boost their audience.
And this year, the top 10 brick-and-mortar chain apps — including Macy’s, Forever 21 and Best Buy — saw new mobile app downloads up 24 percent over Black Friday in 2017.
The key for local businesses moving forward is integrating a robust online presence to gain another avenue to reach consumers, according to Potrikus.
“There are a lot of small retailers that have great multi-functional websites where you can go and buy this stuff or buy the thing that you’re looking for that might be completely unique,” Potrikus said. “That’s a real key component of a small business’ ability in the 2018 world of retail to survive and to thrive up against the competition of Amazon and the Walmart and Target crowds of the world.”