For small businesses across the country, the holiday shopping season brings with it the challenge of keeping up with larger national retailers. For many shops in Missouri, much of their livelihood depends on their performance over the next few weeks.
“Once Thanksgiving is over, it gets kind of crazy,” said Mary Stauffer, co-owner of Tallulah’s, a kitchen and home accessory store in Columbia. “It’s kind of a free-for-all.”
As they look to hold their own against big-box stores, smaller retailers have different strategies for success during the holiday season.
The first key for Scarlett Garnet, a handmade jewelry store in St. Louis, is customer service. When someone comes into the store to try something on, an employee is there to help adjust the size. That can be the difference between a customer making a purchase or leaving the store empty-handed, Scarlett Garnet co-owner Katie Miller said.
Other small retailers also place an emphasis on customer service, saying that it may not be something you can get at larger stores.
“We have a box where people can fill out a wish list, and then their moms, husbands or other family can come in and know exactly what they want,” Stauffer said. “You can’t really do that at a big-box store.”
Decorating the storefront for many businesses goes a long way toward getting people in the door, and it’s something Miller said Scarlett Garnett is focusing more on this year.
Small business owners look forward to not only Black Friday, but also Small Business Saturday. For many, the two days are the biggest of the year.
Some chain stores like Target and Walmart have opened on Thanksgiving before but will open even earlier this year. Others, like Macy’s, will open on Thanksgiving for the first time in their history. With just 26 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, the stores are trying to encourage people to shop big earlier.
Meanwhile, Tallulah’s rolled out its holiday display Nov. 1 this year, about the same time as usual. But the shop has seen a larger number of people coming in prior to Black Friday, which is something new.
Miller said there has been a noticeable difference in the number of people who have placed orders through the company’s website compared to past holiday seasons.
“There have been more people in and out of the store, exploring to see what we have,” she said. “There hasn’t been much purchasing in-store yet, but there have been big orders online.”