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Downtown retailers hope shoppers think local

Jane Briner hopes holiday shoppers think small Saturday.

Small business owners such as Briner hope customers carve out room in their budgets to shop at small, independent shops on Small Business Saturday.

The initiative was launched in 2010 by American Express to give small businesses a boost after the Black Friday shopping blitz. Briner, who manages Shoppes at 127 in Geneva, said the initiative seems to be catching on.

“The first year, nobody knew what it was,” Briner said. “The second year, people were coming into the business saying that had read about it, or said they specifically came downtown for it. There was an awareness last year.”

Lesley Edmondson, owner of Wool and Company in downtown St. Charles, said shoppers might not realize how important it is to shop at small businesses.

“If you don’t do it, you won’t have a choice soon,” she said. “Plus, we get to keep so much more of the tax dollars if you shop downtown.”

Laura Rush, spokeswoman for the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, said in a news release that for every $100 spent at a small business, $68 return to the community in the form of taxes, payroll and other expenditures.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing that it started,” she said.

Both Briner and Edmondson said they planned to greet shoppers Saturday with discounts and extra rewards on loyalty cards.

Lynne Schwartz, executive director of the Downtown St. Charles Partnership, said when it comes to advertising competition, small businesses are at an unfair disadvantage.

“The big box stores have all the advertising power,” she said. “It can be challenging for small businesses to compete. But there are a lot of benefits to shopping at small businesses.”

Aside from keeping more money in the community, Schwartz said small businesses have more to offer.

“A lot of those stores offer unique products and more personalized service,” she said. “It’s a whole different experience. ... It’s really a mindset to go small.”

Briner said it’s easy for shoppers to overlook the smaller stores when they map out their shopping plans the weekend of Black Friday sales. She encourages shoppers to start at small businesses before heading to big box stores.

“I know you can’t get everything locally, but start there,” she said.

The holiday shopping frenzy continues next week with Cyber Monday, an initiative in which retailers push online sales.

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