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Customers shop on Small Business Saturday at Octavia Books. Last year, shoppers spent an estimated $19.8 billion at independent stores the Saturday after Thanksgiving, according to American Express, which launched the event in 2010. That’s up from $19.6 billion in 2019.

Small Business Saturday, a national event created to spotlight independent retailers during the holiday shopping season, is set to happen this weekend.

Last year, shoppers spent an estimated $19.8 billion at independent stores the Saturday after Thanksgiving, according to American Express, which launched the event in 2010. That’s up from $19.6 billion in 2019.

Dawn McVea, state director for the National Federation of Independent Businesses, a leading small business organization, said the spending totals should go up this year, now that business is starting to get back to normal after falling off during the COVID pandemic.

“We definitely see an increase,” she said. “Retailers are reporting sales are getting back to prior to the pandemic.”

About half of the NFIB members are reporting supply chain disruptions this holiday season, so McVea said shoppers need to get out early if they want to find the gifts they’re looking for.

Just like the larger national shift toward online shopping, small businesses are encouraging customers to use their websites to buy items during the holidays. The percentage of people who shop online with small retailers went up to 56% in 2020, Starns said.

“Small business have really gotten creative about the way they sell products, through social media like Instagram,” she said. “They have a lot more of an online presence than they used to.”

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One local online effort to boost holiday sales is Nola Elves Local Shelves, which is a partnership between shoplocalnola.com and staylocal.org, groups that promote independent businesses in the New Orleans metro area.

Beginning Saturday, shoppers who post pictures of themselves on social media in a locally owned store with #NolaElvesLocalShelves are automatically entered in drawings for a variety of items, including jewelry, gift cards and massages.

“We want to make it more fun for consumers to promote local shopping,” said Jacquie Bonano, founder of Shop Local Nola, an online directory of New Orleans-area small businesses. Shoppers who make posts can check to see if they were picked to win a prize at shoplocalnola.com/elf.

Maryann Miller, program manager of StayLocal, the New Orleans Independent Business Alliance, said 75% of small business owners say its worth it to participate in Small Business Saturday. The Nola Elves Local Shelves promotion is a way to keep that energy and attention going for the whole holiday shopping season and not just for a day.

In Baton Rouge, Rally Cap Brewing plans to mark Small Business Saturday by hosting a pop-up market from noon to 5 p.m. with about 15 local vendors, selling everything from plants and coffee to jewelry and soap.

Jeremy Brown, director of operations for Rally Cap, said the idea was to put local vendors in a different venue than the flea markets and arts markets. The brewery is located off Siegen Lane, on Pennywood Avenue, so the goal is to attract people who are headed to nearby big box stores.

“We’re still small and new and we need to support other small businesses,” Brown said. “This is a way to help out other local businesses and get some holiday shoppers.” The brewery opened in December 2019, so this is the first time Small Business Saturday has come around for it without COVID restrictions.


Email Timothy Boone at tboone@theadvocate.com.