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Biz Buzz: Shoppers out for Black Friday

Shoppers in search of deals were in force at numerous lakes area businesses on Black Friday.

Before 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 23, there were busy parking lots from Fleet Farm to Costco. A tour of businesses found shoppers in numbers at Best Buy, Target, Kohl's, Home Depot, Walmart, T.J. Maxx, PetSmart, Ulta Beauty, Dick's Sporting Goods, Big Lots, Dunham's and the Westgate Mall, but Menards appeared to be the most packed, with parked vehicles extending out along the service drives leaving to the Baxter retailer.

Those who waited to get up and go Friday, had many stores opening at relatively reasonable hours in the morning instead of the middle of the night. Temperatures that came with a bite of wind Thursday were almost springlike Friday. Shoppers had clear streets, weak sunshine and temperatures in the 40s as they filled their out their shopping lists.

And for the night owls, there were opportunities Thursday night. At midnight, shoppers were still at Target, Kohl's and Best Buy and parked at Dick's Sporting Goods. But traffic was light and the rush was over.

For those in a turkey coma or not into the crowd energy, there are many options to find deals in the days and weeks ahead.

Another winner for the day appeared to be restaurants—from fast food to sit-downs—as shoppers turned the day into an outing and an experience.

Shop Small

Next up is Small Business Saturday to draw attention to those independent and small businesses across communities. It's a good reminder to consider and think about those business owners and the jobs they provide when planning purchases this holiday season. Shopping small makes a big difference to those folks as they also look to this season to help make their year. For those who talk about building community, about wanting jobs and retail options and a strong downtown, actually making a point to go in and see what the smaller shops have to offer is one way to put those words into action.

Aaron Hautala, owner of Strateligent, formerly Red House Media, was recently interviewed for a segment of MSNBC's "Your Business" about helping small businesses—in this case volunteering to help Bushel and Peck's in Beloit, Wis.—make small changes to do a better job of communicating with customers and marketing, online and in the brick-and-mortar store.

A grocery store, restaurant, commercial kitchen, gift shop and more all in one main street location, Bushel and Peck's wrote to the show seeking help and was highlighted as their small business makeover. The show is being rebroadcast Saturday, Nov. 24.

Highlights from Hautala for the MSNBC story included:

• Deliver unmatched customer experience/service — if you don't, your customers will find it somewhere else,

• Know, and tell, your business's "why" story in 6 seconds or less. Why should anyone care about your business?

• Look the part. Be consistent with your logo, website, social media, point of purchase, etc.

• See through the eyes of your customer. What do they need to trust you in order to buy your product/service?

• In summary, delivering the final product is not enough. It has to be the experience that leads up to the final product that will keep customers coming back for more.

"Traditionally, the holiday shopping season has kicked off with Black Friday, but we are encouraged each year by the number of people who are participating in Small Business Saturday," said Mike Hickey, National Federation of Independent Business' Minnesota state director, said in a news release. "Small Business Saturday isn't about getting up before dawn, fighting traffic, jostling with crowds, and standing in long lines to save a few bucks. It is a day to celebrate and support the small, family-run businesses that do so much throughout the year to support our community."

How to make an impact

Last year, U.S. shoppers spent nearly $13 billion at small, independent stores and restaurants the Saturday after Thanksgiving, according to a survey by National Federation of Independent Business and American Express. Ninety percent of consumers surveyed said Small Business Saturday has a positive impact on their communities, the federation reported in a news release.

According to the National Federation of Independent Business suggests ways shops and restaurants can make the most of Small Business Saturday:

• Stay on top of social media with #ShopSmall and #SmallBizSat to promote deals and attract the attention of shoppers.

• Showcase the merchandise that would make a great gift.

• Steal a page from the Black Friday playbook and offer doorbusters. Chain stores know a great way to drive shoppers to their stores is by offering special deals at different times of the day. There's no reason a small business can't do the same thing.

• Partner with nearby businesses. Pool your resources to buy advertising promoting the neighborhood as a shopping destination or team up with other businesses on in-store promotions. For example, if they buy a pair of shoes here, let them know they can save 10 percent on socks next door.

• Don't forget to tell your regular customers about Small Business Saturday.

"The money spent in a small business, for the most part, remains in that community," Hickey said. "When you shop at a chain store, most of the money goes back to some corporate office somewhere, but when you shop on Main Street, that money stays on Main Street."

NFIB is the state's leading small-business association. To learn more, visit www.nfib.com/MN.

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