The first local Shop Small Saturday not piggybacking on the holiday shopping season was a success, organizers said.
Sauk Valley Shop Small organizers and participating businesses reported increased foot traffic and sales associated with Shop Small Saturday, the first of what is planned as a quarterly event.
About 30 merchants in Dixon, Sterling and Rock Falls offered promotions throughout the day and had specials for shoppers who wore a blue Sauk Valley Shop Small button to their stores.
“So many people have been sending messages and commenting [on the Facebook page] about where to get the buttons,” said Vicki Mandrell, owner of Tuff Dog Bakery in Sterling. “There’s a buzz about it.”
Many people secured buttons on Black Friday or in subsequent weeks, but Shop Small organizers sprinkled more blue buttons throughout the area Saturday.
The button specials seemed to be the main draw of the event. Several merchants reported more customers and better-than-usual sales as a result of the button promotions.
“It’s been great,” said Terry Bright, owner of Golden Key Gifts in Sterling, which offered button-wearers a free 8-ounce candle. “People were waiting at the door before we got here.”
Sauk Valley Shop Small organizers and participating businesses reported skepticism going into the event, but surprise and satisfaction coming out of it.
“It went really well,” said Lisa Higby LeFevre, one of the organizers. “It’s all coming back really positive. ... I think we’re moving in the right direction, and I hope it will grow as we continue [with the quarterly events].”
The group used Facebook to spread its message – to promote participating stores, to promote deals and to drum up awareness of the event. Organizers still took out newspaper and radio ads, but relied on social media to create a buzz about the event.
The idea of shopping small seems to be part of the local conversation.
“I think people are thinking more along the lines of ‘We like our little shops in town, and we need to support them,’” Bright said.
Sauk Valley Shop Small Saturday is a grassroots effort of the national Shop Small movement. National organizers are keeping tabs on the Sauk Valley group with the possibility of replicating the quarterly events elsewhere.
“The whole idea of this is to try to expose and promote the benefits of shopping small,” Higby LeFevre said. “We have to raise the awareness more than once a year.”
The next Shop Small Saturday events are slated for May 4 and Aug. 3, followed by the traditional November sale day.