Justin A. Rice for Boston.comSandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday for the second straight year, Small Business Saturday drew shoppers to downtown centers across the North Shore on Saturday.
The American Express promotion gave its customers a chance to preregister for a $25 credit for shopping locally as well as $100 of free Facebook advertising to 10,000 businesses. And while no official numbers are in, anecdotaly, mom and pop stores across the North Shore seem to have benefited from Small Business Saturday.
“I took a ride around on Saturday and I noticed the downtown areas from Rockport to Salem were extremely healthy,” North Shore Chamber of Commerce President Robert Bradford said during a telephone interview this morning. “There was a lot of traffic, pedestrian traffic and a very festive atmosphere.”
Janice Preston, who owns the gift shop Casa de Moda Gifts in Beverly said Saturday was the best day of the year for her business.
“That’s how strong it was, it more than met our expectations,” she said. “We were very pleased, more so than last year. I think the message got out to do some early shopping but also to stop at a small businesses before they shop at the larger stores."
Preston, who said sales were up about 25 percent on Saturday, said she didn’t have to explain Small Business Saturday to consumers as much this year compared to last year.
"Many people mentioned it and our employees thanked them very much for being there for that reason," she said. "It was a very positive day.”
Ann Massey, who owns Rouge Cosmetics in Salem, said while business wasn’t necessarily any better than last year’s last Small Business Saturday, the promotion is making people more aware about the importance of shopping locally year round.
“I love it, it’s really a good promotion to spread the word, whether on Facebook or Twitter, to spread the word about supporting local business and everything small businesses do to create lively downtowns and create a local economy,” she said. “Local businesses keep downtown areas interesting and bustling. The money we put in local business goes directly back to the local economy."
Andy Schylling, who opened the Green Elephant Toy Store in Danvers Square with his fiancé, Jennifer Lamontagne on Sept. 9, said the promotion even appealed to customers who didn't use American Express.
“Even if they were using Visa they just wanted to participate in Small Business Saturday,” he said. “I was kind of surprised by how many people didn’t care about the American Express promotion.”
Schylling, whose store specializes in non electronic educational toys, said he will hold puppet shows, Lego nights and arts and crafts events at his store to try to continue to attract local shoppers.
“It’s unbelievable the support we’ve had from the community, people willing to come to a small business, the people who want to stay out of the big stores,” Schylling said.
But Massey, of Rouge Cosmetics, said competing with national companies, especially on days like Cyber Monday, is tough these days.
“Obviously there’s a huge amount of cosmetics online but I’m fortunate to be in a business that is very much a hands-on experience,” she said. “Women still like to walk into a brick and mortar store and try cosmetics. Obviously when you look online you don’t know how the color will look on you or have a makeup artist to make sure it looks right.
“Our year to date trend is very strong and our inventories are up and we are very optimistic business will be very strong in December. I expect our business to be up double digits in December based on our year to date trend and we’re ready for that.”
North Shore businesses are even more hopeful about what 2012 has to offer, according to Deanne Healey, the president and CEO of the Peabody Area Chamber of Commerce.
“Depending on the type of business it’s still mixed results, some are doing extremely well and others are still struggling,” she said of 2011. “People are optimistic 2012 is going to be better in general.
“I think people are optimistic we’re through the worst of it and ready to hopefully see a change next year. There are many success stories out there of people changing their business model or going after a new market or tweaking what they were doing.”
Justin A. Rice can be reached at email@example.com.