Small Businesses Ready to Seize the Season
Chippewa Valley business observers are optimistic about holiday prospects
The holiday shopping season can generate a lot of stress — and not just for shoppers themselves. For many small businesses, particularly retailers, the weeks leading up to Christmas are a make-or-break time that determine whether the entire year has been a success or failure. That’s how the phrase “Black Friday” became popularized: Post-Thanksgiving spending can push businesses’ books from red ink to black.
This year — after two holiday seasons under the cloud of COVID-19 — small business representatives in the Chippewa Valley are feeling optimistic.
“Everybody’s very excited for the upcoming season,” said Teri Ouimette, executive director of Main Street Chippewa Falls. “They’ve had a good year so far.” While organization such as Main Street Chippewa Falls work had to boost downtown businesses throughout the year, there are extra efforts as the holiday season draws near. Among these efforts is promoting Small Business Saturday on Nov. 26 — the Saturday after Thanksgiving — a nationwide event now in its 13th year.
Specifically, Chippewa Falls Main Street is holding a “Better Together” promotion that day, in which showing a receipt from a participating business will lead to discounts at other businesses. Small Business Saturday deals include getting a $5 gift card with a $25 purchase at Chippewa Candy Shop to up to 50% off select items at Iris Boutique.
We really get the feeling that people locally take pride in downtown ... and realized through that pandemic how important small businesses are, not just to our downtown but to the community as a whole.
DOWNTOWN EAU CLAIRE INC.
Downtown Chippewa Falls businesses will be offering deals the previous Saturday as well. On Nov. 19 — the first day of gun deer hunting season — will be a day of “Deer Widows” sales at numerous shops.
A bustling business community and support from shoppers from around the Valley have helped Chippewa Falls businesses before, during, and after the pandemic, Oiumette said. In fact, only one of the 264 businesses in the downtown closed as a result of the pandemic, she said.
“That says a lot about the community,” she said. “People want to see their downtown successful.”
Small Business Saturday was a busy day last year nationwide: According to a survey conducted by American Express, which created and promotes the annual event, consumers spent $23.3 billion at independent retailers and restaurants on Small Business Saturday 2021, an 18% increase from the previous year. (It was also about 19% higher than the pre-pandemic year of 2019.)
Like their counterparts in Chippewa Falls, businesses in Menomonie’s downtown are also looking forward to celebrating Small Business Saturday. “I would say all of the business owners are excited about it,” said Jeff Frawley, past president of Downtown Menomonie Inc. “Small Business Saturday is always very busy.”
This year, Downtown Menomonie is touting a deal on Main Street Bucks — gift certificates that can used at numerous small businesses. Shoppers who buy $50 in Main Street Bucks on Small Business Saturday will get a bonus $5 free, which amounts to an extra 10% of purchases at local businesses.
And the businesses that benefit from the holiday season aren’t just retailers. For example, Frawley and his wife are proprietors of Estilo Salon locations in Menomonie and Eau Claire, and they see an uptick in business as the holidays draw near. In fact, they extend their hours before Thanksgiving and Christmas so clients can get their looks dialed in before celebrating with family and friends.
In Eau Claire, Small Business Saturday will be a cause for celebration, with the Wintertime in the City event being held that day. In addition to visiting downtown businesses, shoppers will be able to get photos with Santa, sip hot chocolate, get a horse-drawn wagon ride, enjoy a new tree in Haymarket Plaza, and more.
It’s all representative of how Small Business Saturday has grown in recent years, said Dustin Olson, communications and promotions manager of Downtown Eau Claire Inc.
“We really get the feeling that people locally take pride in downtown and the businesses that are downtown and realized through that pandemic how important small businesses are, not just to our downtown but to the community as a whole,” he said.