Shopping small: Local businesses spotlight Saturday holiday

Lacey Varnon's dog, Harvey, licks her face as clerk Aleise Cline checks her out at Nooga Paws on the Small Business Saturday shopping day Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The annual day encourages shoppers to shop locally.

When people mention the holiday season, businesses aren't focused on Thanksgiving or Christmas. The manufactured commercial "holidays" - Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday - created by the influx of shopping revenue carry a great weight to stores' bottom line.

Saturday, local businesses across Chattanooga participated in Small Business Saturday by offering specials and sales on a lot of their merchandise.

Rachel Dean and Hayli Chamberlain, both sales associates at Nell's Home, Gifts & Interior Design on Cherokee Boulevard, said this is the busiest time of the year for them. They had an open house a couple of weeks ago and sales will continue to be strong up until Christmas.

On Saturday the store had fresh-baked cookies laid out and several candles going, making the atmosphere as Christmaslike as possible. They both said the customers who came in were more focused than usual.

"I wouldn't say we've had much more foot traffic, but people are definitely buying more now," Chamberlain said.

"Opposed to just coming in and looking around," Dean added.

Small Business Saturday was created by American Express in 2010, with an emphasis on giving small businesses more customers during the frenzied shopping season. The day has grown throughout the years; American Express estimates small businesses pulled in $14.3 billion on that day in 2014.

"Small Business Saturday is a major part of the holiday shopping tradition, and has become a celebration of the local small business owners that we call friends, neighbors and family," Janey Whiteside, senior vice president and general manager of American Express OPEN, a sector of the company that specializes in small business, said in a release.

American Express said 55 percent of U.S. consumers are aware of the day, and projections say this will be the most lucrative Small Business Saturday on record.

Jazmin Hooper, the promotions coordinator of Merch Northshore, said the store had sales on both Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, with $25 off jackets and coats and 30 percent off holiday dresses.

They had hot cider for customers, decorations and Christmas music - until they got sick of it and turned on the radio. A lot of regulars came by Friday to take advantage of the sales, and the foot traffic was great, Hooper said.

"Today we've seen a little bit of that, too," she said of Saturday's sales. "But there's a lot of football games going on, so it hasn't been as busy as we'd like."

Contact staff writer Evan Hoopfer at ehoopfer or @EvanHoopfer on Twitter or 423-757-6731.