How San Jose small businesses are joining the holiday shopping act

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Jody Meacham

Nov 23, 2016, 4:54am PST Updated Nov 23, 2016, 5:52am PST


Thanksgiving has become a holiday that really is “the holidays.”

You’ve got the turkey feast let’s-watch-the-Detroit-Lions-and-Dallas-Cowboys day itself and then a collection of shopping days in preparation for the other “the holidays:” Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday.

“It’s a way of alerting people to the opportunity to shop somewhere other than in a chain store where the profits go to Omaha or Tennessee or New York,” said Elisabeth Handler of the city of San Jose’s office of economic development.


Small Business Saturday is designed for for small retailers like Hicklebee’s Book Store

Which, of course, is why the city is interested in promoting Small Business Saturday. It estimates there are 56,000 businesses with fewer than 35 employees here. Handler had no local figures to support how successful the promotion was last year but nationally shoppers made 95 million small business visits in 2015 and spent $16.2 billion.

And according to a story by colleague Bryce Druzin, the San Jose metro area of Santa Clara and San Benito counties is a particularly tough place for small businesses to survive.

Compared to the national average of 48.7 percent of small businesses surviving into their fifth year, only 47.5 percent of those in San Jose do. In just the past year, San Jose’s rank among U.S. cities in small business activity has fallen from 20th to 30th.

“The point (of the city’s promotion of Small Business Saturday) is it’s an opportunity to realize that patronizing local retailers, whether they be mom-and-pops or fairly large enterprises that call San Jose home, actually benefits the entire economy of the city while getting your shopping done,” Handler said.

The city is promoting the day on its Shop San Jose website and also provides links to a Facebook page.

Small Business Saturday has been a “thing” only since 2010, when American Express partnered with the National Trust for Historic Preservation to encourage people to patronize the small shops of Roslindale Village, Mass., a stop on the MBTA’s Needham Line southwest of Boston.

American Express, which registered the term as a trademark, now says nearly six in 10 Americans are aware of Small Business Saturday and what it promotes.

A Yelp-commissioned national survey found that 64 percent of Americans were likely to shop at local independent businesses for the holidays and that they plan to spend an average of $324, which would be an increase over last year’s $258.

The same survey says slightly more than half of all Americans will plan to begin their holiday shopping on Small Business Saturday and that most of them will be women.

Twice as many men as women say they’ll wait until December to begin shopping. There was no correlation in the survey whether these are the men just waking up from the Lions’ and Cowboys’ games after their turkey feast.

Jody Meacham is a reporter for the Silicon Valley Business Journal.