Small Business Saturday, on Nov. 30, was a big hit across the nation, but locally owned shops in Grand Forks are reporting mixed results for the day, with the weather being a factor.
American Express and the National Federation of Independent Businesses commissioned a survey which found that, across the nation, Americans spent a reported $19.6 billion at independent retailers and restaurants that day -- a record high. The 2019 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey also found that 110 million shoppers took part in the Shop Small campaign, up from the previous year.
The shopping event, created by American Express and now in its 10th year, has seen shoppers spend around $120 billion in only 10 days.
“It was good, so I had a lot of customers in,” said Kay Derry, owner of Northern Roots Boutique, 2550 South Columbia Road, Suite H. “A lot of return customers, but there were also some new customers that were making their loops, and every one of them said they wanted to make a difference .… They wanted to make more of an impact on the small businesses.
Locally, the weather didn’t cooperate with Small Business Saturday this year. According to the National Weather Service, Grand Forks had 8 inches of snow that day, as well as travel advisories for icy roads and blowing snow.
“The weather was back and forth, but you can’t do anything about that,” Derry said. “Everyone that came in ... and (said) we can live in North Dakota and shop at the same time.”
Jessica Stroh, office manager of Bully Brew Coffee Roasters, said she saw more customers than a typical Saturday. Bully Brew was one of eight locally owned shops on a “Shop Small passport,” created by Bully Brew owner Sandi Luck. Customers could get a stamp on the passport for purchasing something at each of the participating businesses and could then be entered for a drawing to win prizes from each business.
Stroh said she went to each business on the passport and saw some of the same people at each location.
Other shops reported that sales were not what they could have been.
“I think the weather impacted us greatly, where we didn’t see as many (customers) as we were expecting,” said Chad Gunderson, owner of Half Brothers Brewing Company, in downtown Grand Forks. “As far as the passport, that worked out well. Anything to collaborate with other small businesses to bring in more people -- we’re always on board with that.”
Nikolina Zulj, who does public relations work for American Express, noted a national trend of people choosing to shop at locally owned businesses.
“Shoppers are increasingly making a conscious effort to shop small and support their local communities,” she told the Herald through email.
For some businesses, the realities of winter in North Dakota collided with the possibilities of what should have been a good day for business.
“Yeah, I think that the blizzard really wasn’t the best for anybody going anywhere,” Gunderson said.