Printed on: November 26, 2013

Local businesses less enthused about Black Friday

By CODY McDEVITT
cmcdevitt@postregister.com

Small businesses such as Geisler Ranch and Livestock Center in Idaho Falls often are overlooked by shoppers on Thanksgiving weekend, when huge crowds gather outside stores that are slashing prices.

While Geisler's and other stores do not alter their prices on Black Friday, the kickoff to the biggest shopping weekend of the year, major retail outlets and big-box stores are at the forefront of budget-conscious shoppers' minds during that time because of the enormous discounts they give on select items.

That doesn't bother Cole Geisler, manager of Geisler Ranch and Livestock.

"I don't necessarily want people smashing down my doors at 4:30 in the morning," Geisler said. "We don't have the staff to deal with that kind of crowd. We try to have low prices every day."

Other local businesses such as Northgate Antiques also don't offer special discounts.

"It's just another day to us," said Linda Williams, a dealer with the business.

Lyn Pletscher, owner of Lyn's Downtown, said the novelty items that smaller shops provide attract people, while the bigger retailers attract customers with their large array of electronic gadgets. The weeks after Black Friday are the busiest for Pletscher's store. She thinks there is a place for both national chains and small stores.

"We all shop everywhere," she said. "We have things the big retailers can't provide. We're also warm and fuzzy, which big box and online aren't. People like that. We can outprice the stores, too. It's a myth that we can't. We can do it bigger and faster. The key is getting them downtown."

Margie Kennedy prefers the smaller shops downtown, which she visits three times a week. She has lived in Idaho Falls her entire life. She doesn't plan on shopping anywhere on Black Friday but said she would visit the shops Saturday.

"I like them mainly because of the intimacy," Kennedy said. "When you frequent a small business, they learn your name. But when you go to a large store, they won't know you or be able to recognize you. I like the down-home family aspect."

There are initiatives aimed at making smaller businesses competitive during the weekend. The day after Black Friday is known as Small Business Saturday, which was conceived by American Express in 2010 as a way to promote local stores.

American Express cardholders can get a one-time $10 credit for spending $10 or more in a single in-store transaction in participating shops Saturday. Card members must register and use an eligible American Express card during the purchase.

The Bookstore on Broadway, Jimmy's All-Seasons Angler and Idaho Mountain Trading are a few businesses that the credit card company is giving discounts at. Other businesses taking part can be found at tinyurl.com/IFsmallbiz deals.

Bob Everhart, executive director of the Idaho Falls Downtown Development Corp., said the Saturday following Thanksgiving last year was a big day for downtown specialty shops.

"Most of our shops downtown are specific to a product line," Everhart said. "Whereas at the big box stores, you can shop for appliances and a bathrobe at the same time. Saturday is the day when you pick off something specific (for) someone on your shopping list. That's where we can make it."

Shop Your Community Challenge

Go to a Bank of Idaho branch and exchange $100 in any denomination for 50 $2 bills.

Spend the cash in local stores on items you otherwise would have purchased online. Shop owners are asked to redistribute those $2 bills as change to keep them circulating.

Shop Your Community Challenge literature notes that 68 percent of money spent with locally owned businesses stays in Idaho, while 42 percent of purchases at national chains operating in Idaho stays in-state. None of the money spent online with out-of-state businesses on products manufactured elsewhere stays in Idaho. Sales tax revenue helps support education, health and welfare, parks and recreation, law enforcement and fire departments.

To participate, enter your name under the challenge on Post Register's Facebook page or fill out a form at the newspaper's office, 333 Northgate Mile.

The newspaper will publish the participants' names at a later date.