In between the ruthless hustle of Black Friday and the passive indulgence of Cyber Monday is Small Business Saturday. Over the last five years, the retail oriented day has increasingly gained velocity to become a real event across the East End.
With many small businesses struggling to stay afloat, especially in resort areas, the day, recently endorsed by Assemblyman Fred Thiele, has created the opportunity for an increase in sales through various promotions and discounts from Hampton Bays to Montauk.
Lisa Fields, Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce president and owner of the Sag Harbor Variety Store, said this year’s event on Saturday was successful overall.
“This is the first year our chamber really got behind it,” she said. “In the beginning you heard about it and it was kind of cute, but it grew as a natural progression out here.”
Ms. Fields said the free advertising offered by American Express and individual advertising by the chamber in local publications contributed to the day’s success.
“The combination of talking and promoting really works,” she said. “Saying ‘let’s support small businesses’ kind of makes the weekend for everybody.”
Wearing her local business owner hat, Ms. Fields said Sag Harbor Variety had a great day with a lot of people around despite Saturday’s gloomy, wet weather.
Along with advertising, many shops offered individual promotions to lure in the crowds and make the day a festive event.
Su Gilmore, owner of Tin Roof in Hampton Bays, said she put out apple cider and cookies to welcome customers into her beach-inspired shop that sells jewelry, artwork and gifts of all kinds.
Ms. Gilmore said almost everyone who came in proclaimed they were out and about to support small businesses. There were also customers from Black Friday who promised they would return the next day.
“I think it’s great that people shop and support the stores of the community. We as merchants donate a lot to the community,” said Ms. Gilmore.
Out in Montauk, prolific business owner Tom Flight said all six of his businesses had the best business they have ever had on this weekend over the years.
Along with his wife, Georgia Flight, Mr. Flight owns Homeport, Fish City, Capt. Kidd, Pier Group, Pier Group Sport and Homeport Town, all in Montauk.
“It’s something that’s really growing,” Mr. Flight said. “It’s nice because it gives local stores a boost. We’ve tried to put our strongest foot forward.”
He said he noticed that the season continues to extend each year despite the traditional Labor Day exodus.
“You can even tell from get-go,” he said, referring to the high volume at the Montauk Turkey Trot. “People showed up for the long weekend.”
Like Ms. Gilmore at The Tin Roof, many of Mr. Flight’s stores offered hot chocolate and cookies to customers to show appreciation for their business.
Innersleeve Records on Main Street in Amagansett also had a good weekend. Although the hamlet may take a hit with the loss of Crossroads Music, scheduled to close at the beginning of the new year, manager Carlos Lama said record sales have never been better.
Mr. Lama said Saturday piggy-backed on the store’s biggest day of the year—Record Store Day, which also happens to fall on Black Friday.
The store hosted two bands as customers lined up to get the latest releases and exclusives that are released on the special day.
“People who couldn’t make it on Friday showed up the next day,” said Mr. Lama.
In general, he said business has been better than ever with the resurgence of vinyl records.
“In the past we sold about a 1 to 5 ratio of new to used records. Now at least half of sales are new vinyl, new bands, reissues, and more.”
With the success of Small Business Saturday, there remains a glimmer of hope for mom and pop stores across the East End.
Ms. Fields said she will continue to actively advertise the day next year in hopes of growing it even more.
“The more people know about it, the more they make the effort to shop local,” she said. “It becomes a movement and the whole business district benefits from it.”