LAURINBURG – Saturday marks the seventh year retailers in Scotland County have observed Small Business Saturday.
The day was created by American Express in November 2010 to help boost sales at local businesses and bring consumer focus back to the grass roots level, according to Farm Bureau Financial Services.
Customers who shop locally experience service and quality that they might not get from a larger corporation, according to two local business owners.
Gail Wampler of Wampler’s Jewelry and Gifts at 1777 S. Main St. was a believer in shopping small even before the movement began.
“I always have, even before I had a business, I shopped locally as much as I could. You have to support hometown businesses. We don’t need to lose anything else in Laurinburg,” Wampler said. “People here [at local stores] care about the customer.”
Wampler will be open Saturday and offering sales on her fashion jewelry from 25 percent off of her sterling pieces to 50 percent off of the rest of her selection. Customers can also enter a drawing to win a handbag of their choice.
Tracie Leviner, manager of GM Outlet, at 222 Atkinson St. is one of four generations working in the appliance store started by her grandfather Gerald Braswell Sr.
Leviner believes shopping local is beneficial to both the client and the merchant.
“If you’re from a small town, you should always shop local. When you shop local that puts money back into downtown; that’s what the county is made of.” Leviner said. “When you come here, you’re going to get somebody that will see that you get what you need and get your technical questions answered.”
By shopping small, customers can get a more personalized experience and develop long-term business relationships that benefit both parties.
“You can come into a small business and you can chit-chat and make small talk. It makes you happy to know you’ve made a friend and you become a part of a family when you shop local,” Leviner said. “And we get to know the customer’s needs and what they like. We know when they come in the door what they’re looking for.”
GM will not be participating in small business Saturday because competition from larger stores has made it unprofitable for them to be open on Saturdays, but they will be offering a family Christmas event in the near future.
Closing on Saturdays is not the only accommodation GM has made in order to compete with chain stores. The store began in 1984 as a thrift store that also sold used appliances. In the 1990s the family added new appliances and began to offer maintenance and service on their products. In the early 2000s lawn mowers and lawn care equipment were added to the store.
They have recently revamped their model again.
“Big chains can buy quantities of stuff like appliances that they can give a bigger discount. They also get items that only they are allowed to sell. How can we compete with that,” Leviner said. “We have turned our focus to realty homes and apartment complexes. When people see our prices they’re going to flock to Lowe’s, but they’re not necessarily going to get the better product or they attention they deserve.”
Supporting local business also helps the county’s tax base and helps people whom shoppers might actually know, according to Chris English, executive director of the Laurinburg/Scotland County Area Chamber of Commerce.
“One thing shopping small does for local economy is that for every dollar that is spent locally, 73 cents stays in Laurinburg. As an advocate for local business, I can’t stress enough the importance of keeping your money in Scotland County,” English said. “Those are your friends, neighbors, people you go to church with. It’s who we are.”
GM Outlet and Wamplers are just two of over 50 small businesses from restaurants and hair salons to clothing and gift stores that shoppers in Laurinburg can choose to support this Small Business Saturday, according to English.
Over half of sales in the US still occur at the small business level. Shopping local has a multi-faceted effect − it keeps jobs and money in the local economy and helps contribute to environmental sustainability, according to the Farm Bureau website.
Small businesses also invest in the community through charitable donations. Statistically, small businesses invest 250 percent more into community charities than larger corporations do.
Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169