Shopping focus on Saturday turns to small businesses

Shoppers didn’t exactly flock to the stores early on Black Friday, but the crowds picked up as the day went on, and those who did make the trip appeared to be in a buying mood.

The focus today turns to “Small Business Saturday,” but on Black Friday, shoppers were on the hunt for deep discounts, and many were pleased by what they found.

Brenda Lecklider of Englewood was one of the early shoppers, arriving at the Dayton Mall at 4 a.m. with three family members. By 7 a.m., she and her crew had already taken two loads of full shopping bags out to her car, and were headed back into the mall for the third shopping installment of the morning.

“It’s a family tradition for us to come out on Black Friday,” Lecklider said. “And after we’re done here, we’re headed to another mall.”

Starting bright and early also was no problem for Andie Emerick, 15, of Troy. Emrick and a handful of friends arrived at the Dayton Mall at 5 a.m., and by 6:15, she was carrying around a couple of bags of clothing bargains.

Emerick smiled as she said she was buying Christmas gifts “for myself — from my parents.”

Dayton Mall general manager Dave Duebber said early-morning crowds were small, but he expected traffic to build through the day. And a visual check of the mall’s foot traffic at mid-morning suggested he was right.

“People are still recovering from last night or still trying to get their game plans together for shopping today,” Duebber said early Friday morning.

“We expect to traffic to pick up as the majority of our major stores offer their (Black Friday) deals,” Duebber said.

Retailers at The Greene Town Center in Beavercreek saw a similar pattern. Dennis Brown, store manager for Game Stop at the Greene, said business was steady Friday morning, “not bunched up like I’m used to in previous years, where you get 10 or 15 people in at a time.

“Actually, it works out better for me because I have more personal one on one interaction with everybody. We get that time to actually work with” customers, Brown said.

Shopper traffic at the Upper Valley Mall near Springfield was light Friday morning, General Manager Brenda Labonte said. That’s been the typical situation since stores began opening on Thanksgiving Day, spreading out sales and dampening the foot traffic on Black Friday morning.

“Last night, traffic started picking up probably around 7 p.m.,” Labonte said. “We lasted until probably around one in the morning.”

When people stay out late shopping on Thanksgiving, they are less likely to be up for sales again starting at 6 a.m., Labonte said.

But the Clark County mall expects a steady stream of shoppers throughout the weekend as deals continue. The mall is staying open one hour later over that period, until 10 p.m.

The absence of throngs of shoppers on Black Friday or during the rest of Thanksgiving weekend shouldn’t be a cause for alarm, since many retailers have started opening on Thanksgiving evening and are staggering their online offers to spread out their sales. And while Black Friday sales and crowds have dominated media headlines for several years, it is not even the busiest shopping day of the year for many stores, according to Google.

The last Saturday before Christmas — which this year falls on Dec. 19 — brings the most foot traffic of any day of the year to shopping malls, department stores, and discount/super stores, according to data released by Google. The only two retail categories that do count Black Friday as their busiest day are electronics stores and cellphone shops.

The focus today, on Saturday Nov. 28, shifts at least in part to small businesses, courtesy of today’s “Small Business Saturday” promotion.

The Kettering Moraine Oakwood Chamber of Commerce is hosting a promotion this morning to encourage small-business Saturday. Those who stop by the chamber’s office between 8 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. at 2977 Far Hills Ave. at Dorothy Lane can pick up a free cup of coffee, a pastry or bagel, and a coupon book of discounts good at locally owned businesses at the Town & Country Shopping Center just one mile south of the chamber’s office on Far Hills Avenue and Stroop Road.

“It’s our mission to get people to think local and shop local,” said Ann-Lisa Allen, president of the K-M-O chamber. “When you support a local business, you’re supporting the family that owns it, you’re supporting the local economy, and you’re supporting the community.”

The chamber of commerces in Dayton and Springfield sent an email to members earlier this week reminding them of the “Small Business Saturday” promotion that was launched by American Express six years ago.

“And if you don’t think it makes a difference, think again,” chamber officials told member businesses. “In 2014, 88 million people got out to ‘Shop Small on Small Business Saturday’ and spent an estimated $14.3 billion at small, independent businesses. This year could be even bigger.”

• Staff writers Katie Wedell and Rachel Murray contributed to this report.

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