Hundreds of independent Pittsburgh businesses will participate in this year’s Small Business Saturday initiative. Created by American Express in 2010, the day seeks to draw attention to the importance of shopping at locally-owned stores during the holiday season and all year long.
According to the 2015 Small Businesses Saturday Consumer Insight Survey, 95 million people went shopping last year, spending nearly $16.2 billion.
Sara Dinges, executive director of Strip District Neighbors, said at least 40 independently-owned businesses are participating in the Strip District. Since many shops in the neighborhood have been family-run for decades, Dinges said there’s a strong support for small business.
“Money spent at a small, locally-owned business actually re-circulates more in the local economy than at a national chain,” Dinges said. “So when you support small business, you’re supporting your community, your neighborhood, your city. It’s going to be a really exciting day.”
A number of other neighborhood-based organizations are planning special events for this Small Business Saturday. Jonathan Winkler, marketing & communications coordinator for the Oakland Business Improvement District said they’ve developed a campaign specifically for Oakland stores.
“We made a hashtag: #ShopSmallShopOakland,” Winkler said.
Prizes are given to participants who tweet a picture of themselves shopping at a local business in Oakland. Winkler said free parking has also helped encourage people to come to the neighborhood.
“You know how hard it is finding parking in Oakland,” said Winkler, with a laugh.
Oakland community officials weren't the only ones promoting their Saturday specials through the use of social media. In Allentown, shoppers can use #Atownpgh #UponTheHilltop to show off their wares. On Penn Avenue in the Garfield neighborhood, 14 businesses have signed on to the #ShopSmallHere initiative.
Parking is free throughout the city on Small Business Saturday. Afterward, it's free in some neighborhoods in the weekends leading up to Christmas.
In the Hill District, businesses are being highlighted along Centre Avenue, where the Hill District Community Development Corporation has begun revitalizing the buildings around the historic New Granada Theater. Uncover Squirrel Hill is promoting the new Coop Chicken & Waffles food truck as well as discounts from “dozens of local merchants.”
Several Lawrenceville stores are offering free gift wrapping or tote bags for shoppers out on Saturday. Along East Carson Street on the South Side, businesses are offering discounts and the South Side Chamber of Commerce will hand out cookies and cider at the welcome center.
East Liberty Chamber of Commerce board member Tom West said the biggest challenge he’s faced trying to market Small Business Saturday in East Liberty is convincing people that the neighborhood has more than large chain stores.
“Getting the word out there is the biggest obstacle,” West said. “We’re trying to break down the barriers and let people know, ‘Hey, there are small businesses that are here and we want East Liberty and Pittsburgh to succeed.’”
The photo above was taken by Brett VA for Flickr.