Merchants report mixed results after Small Business Saturday
Nov. 30 was Small Business Saturday. The event, started by American Express in 2010, is intended as a counterpart to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which are centered around big-box retail and online shopping, respectively. The goal of Small Business Saturday is to encourage people to shop at small, local brick-and-mortar businesses.
This year, Made in Nevada—a statewide organization that works to connect and promote Nevada businesses—organized a scavenger hunt event in the hopes of promoting Small Business Saturday in Reno.
“Made in Nevada has been an American Express Small Business Saturday neighborhood champion for about five years now,” said Brad Scribner, Made in Nevada project manager. “Every year we get their marketing collateral that they send down and give it out to our members. But this was the first year that we decided to try to pull off some kind of event. At first it was going to be, like, a small business crawl. But we decided to incentivize participants that we'd make it a scavenger hunt.”
Eighteen businesses participated in the event by giving patrons scavenger hunt cards featuring four clues, each pointing to a business where they could go to receive a stamp on their cards. After solving the clues and obtaining all four stamps, shoppers could take their completed cards to Urban Market on Third Street to be entered into a raffle.
“You had a chance to win a Made in Nevada basket, which were these cute, Nevada-shaped baskets full of all kinds of our members good that are made right here in the state,” Scribner said. “And we gave away 10 of those.”
In total, just a little more than 20 people turned in a card.
“I was actually out of town, so I couldn't attend,” Scribner said. “I heard the weather was awful—and then there's all the construction in midtown. So, we were fighting some different challenges, but I think for a first one it went OK.”
OK—with a few standouts to the good and bad—seemed to be the consensus among participating merchants, too.
At Recycled Records, co-owner Eric Jacobson said the store had a good day, though slower than last year's. But few people asked after the scavenger hunt cards in his store.
“We had an excellent day,” he said. “And, I mean, I had a few people coming in talking about Small Business Saturday, and a few people told me they came specifically for it. … I remember last Black Friday and that weekend, it wasn't like this. It was a lot better weather last year. We got hit. I mean, all of these businesses did.”
At Crystal Cove across the street, the staff reported the day was flat for them, perhaps even slower than a usual Saturday, citing the weather as a possible culprit. But for Wildwood Trading Post, adjacently located, the experience was better for owner Cat Farotte—a transplant from Portland, where Small Business Saturday events are plentiful. She opened her store in Reno five months ago.
“Yesterday was an awesome sales day for me,” she said. “I couldn't have been happier. … And, honestly, the foot traffic yesterday was amazing. … And a lot of people were bartering and spending. What I thought was really cool, too, was that a lot of the businesses on the card were going together and tagging each other on Instagram. … It was this community-based effort of pulling together and trying to make it a good event.”
Farotte hopes Small Business Saturday may have had the additional effect of dispelling myths about midtown traffic.
“I think—and I've been trying to let people know—the perception that midtown is a mess with the construction isn't true,” she said. “It's not that bad right now. You can come down and find parking, and all of the stores are open. It's not that bad. I feel like, hopefully, yesterday kind of spread the word a little bit.”
Results of the day were also mixed among stores located away from construction on Virginia Street. At the Glass Die on Holcomb Avenue those results were good.
“My unrealistic goal was to sell 100 board games, which is a lot of games in one day—and we sold almost 90,” said owner Jeff Carter. “I would say even with the weather there were still more people all around midtown, probably, that I noticed.”
At Mountain Music Parlor a few blocks west on Center Street, the day was fairly dismal, according to owner Renee Lauderback.
“Last year was really, really small,” she said. “This year was small. … We barely sold a hundred dollars worth of stuff.”
Lauderback, like others, acknowledged that the inclement weather and construction were likely factors in the slow day but sees a lack of business diversity as another challenge to doing retail in midtown.
“It'd be nice if midtown would get more merchants that actually sell merchandise and not just food, booze and tattoos,” she said. “That's part of the problem, too, of midtown. There's a lack of viable, family-friendly stores. Sippee's is gone. Happy Happy Joy Joy's gone. … But I really appreciate what Made in Nevada tried to do. Brad [Scribner], who's running it, is really fantastic. He's a go-getter.”
Other merchants said they appreciated the effort, too.
“The little scavenger hunt thing helped a lot with the foot traffic,” said Allie McReynolds, an associate at the Melting Pot World Emporium. “A couple of people came with that thing and said, ‘Oh, I've never even been in here before.' That was kind of cool, that it brought people into a business they'd never been to before, and then they stayed and kind of browsed.”
“I'm really glad for whoever put that on,” said Carter at the Glass Die. “I don't even know what nonprofit that is. … It was really nice of them to even ask.”
According to Scribner, Made in Nevada will likely be asking merchants to participate in something similar again.
“It's our first time, so there were definitely some kinks in the plan that we plan to hammer out for the next time,” he said. “We hope to do something in the springtime, maybe April or May.”