Downtown Lawrence merchants ready for Small Business Saturday

The 800 block of Massachusetts Street is pictured on Nov. 17, 2015.

While shoppers crowded big-box stores Friday morning in search of deals, Erin Adams and her small team at Lawrence’s The Etc. Shop were busily preparing for their version of Black Friday.

The longtime boutique, at 928 Massachusetts St., is one of more than 50 downtown merchants participating in this year’s Small Business Saturday, the mom-and-pop answer to Black Friday.

Adams, The Etc. Shop’s manager, predicts strong sales this winter. After the stressful year that was 2017, she senses “people want to have something to cheer them up this holiday season.”

“I think the people who come downtown really do enjoy the personal experience they get,” Adams said. “You don’t really get that at big-box stores. I think people are just starting to appreciate it, maybe.”

The Etc. Shop has been offering Small Business Saturday specials since the national movement’s launch in 2010, Adams said. This year’s deals include 20 percent off the entire store, along with various promotional deals from the jewelry and accessories brand Brighton.

While Small Business Saturday originated as a counterpoint to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Adams said downtown Lawrence tends to attract shoppers on Black Friday anyway.

Consumers, tired out from the big-box crowds, usually head downtown in the late morning and early afternoon for coffee, meals and more laid-back shopping.

Downtown Lawrence Inc. executive director Sally Zogry has been promoting the shopping district’s Small Business Saturday events since 2013. Since then, she has seen an uptick in awareness and support of the movement locally, partially driven, she theorizes, by Black Friday fatigue and the companies opening their stores to deal-hungry shoppers on Thanksgiving Day itself.

“When people say, ‘Oh, I’m going to go to The Legends or the Plaza,’ or whatever, it hurts,” Zogry said of Lawrencians trekking to Kansas City and other shopping venues. “It takes away from our community, because that sales tax is going to another community.”

Lawrence sales taxes make up 40 percent of the city’s general fund revenue this year, in turn supporting “our entire community,” Zogry said.

This year marks Katie Moore’s second year participating in Small Business Saturday. Moore opened her kitchen-goods store, Delaney & Loew, at 732 Massachusetts St., just weeks before last year’s event.

Sales were good during Black Friday and the following weekend in 2016, but even better the Wednesday before Thanksgiving this year, Moore said. (Her Small Business Saturday deals include to-be-announced specials on select knives and Emile Henry products.)

“Now people know we’re here, and we don’t know if it’s because of that fact, or what exactly is driving sales or even (getting) people in the door,” Moore said Friday. “But we do notice on days like today and Small Business Saturday the number of out-of-town people that are here. That’s really big.

“I don’t know of a better place if you’re wanting to support small business than downtown Lawrence,” continued Moore, who co-owns Delaney & Loew with her husband, Bradly Moore. “There are so many businesses and so many different places to shop.”

That’s the message Zogry is trying to promote this year. Many participating businesses are also offering Cyber Monday deals online. And while Small Business Saturday often focuses on retail stores, Zogry hopes shoppers remember restaurants, salons and other services, too.

For example, Merchants Pub and Plate, 746 Massachusetts St., is offering half-price deals on all beers Saturday, and Shana Cake, 914 Massachusetts St., is cutting prices on all treats by 10 percent.

Laugh Out Loud Family Zone, 1000 Massachusetts St., will offer memberships at a 25 percent discount, while the Watkins Museum of History, 1047 Massachusetts St., will have books, holiday ornaments and other items on sale for 10 percent off.

Zogry hopes this year’s Small Business Saturday incentives will continue to attract shoppers downtown not just during the holidays but year-round.

“We want to remind people, ‘Hey, we’re here 365 days a year,'” she said. “We are the backbone of the community. We hope people think about that.”