Saturday, November 26 marks the second annual national Small Business Saturday. Windsor's participating businesses are hoping that after people have done their Black Friday shopping, they will turn their eyes towards small, unique businesses right in their home towns.
Small businesses in Windsor are facing the same challenges as businesses all over America. With "big-box" stores dropping prices so low small shops cannot compete, main street has to fight hard to maintain a clientele of faithful customers.
This year over 40 Windsor businesses have decided to participate in this program, but the rewards will remain dubious until businesses close their doors on Saturday and count up their cash drawers.
Small Business Saturday, sponsored by American Express (AmEx), offers small businesses a way to market themselves for free via the Small Business Saturday Facebook page and free marketing materials which they provide.
"I feel it like it has a good potential to bring in new customers," said Daniel Blajda, a licensed massage therapist at Therapeutic Solutions on Poquonock Avenue.
His business is offering a special deal: "If you come in on Small Business Saturday and buy a gift certificate for $50 or more we’re taking $10 off," he said. "We have been pretty satisfied with what they offered us," he said.
Snelgrove's Flowers, Chocolates and Gifts is also participating in the program. "We hope that people will start picking small business rather than large stores," said owner Timothy Snelgrove. His business participates in many programs like this one to attempt to get the word out about his business, which has been recently renovated. Snelgrove sees the value in programs like Small Business Saturday that pull potential clients in the door and successfully promotes businesses through social media like Facebook. They are also offering a discount on Saturday: if you spend 50$ you get a $10 gift certificate.
But other local businesses are uncertain about the value of such a program.
"Windsor is a small town," said the owner of Union Street Tavern, Kevin Farley. "Every individual business is different. What works for one business, may not work for another."
Farley's participation with business-centered programs, especially coupon programs, has not historically been a lucrative proposition for him, even costing him thousands of dollars in lost sales.
Farley prefers to keep offering the same successful product he has since he opened: good food at good prices.
"We have a good thing going here. Every nickel and dime counts," said Farley. He is sticking with what works. "I can't raise my prices like a gas station."
Despite their participation, Snelgrove and Blajda have what they feel are constructive criticisms for the AmEx program, such as more transparency in where their advertising is displayed and more Small Business Saturday marketing in general.
Businesses have also been left wondering what's in it for the American Express Corporation and if the marketing will appeal to shoppers emotions to support their neighbors' businesses.
"[This program] gives [shoppers] a positive outlook on American Express," said Blajda. "It is making people realize that not all big businesses are the same."
American Express donated 5,000 free SBS Facebook ads to small businesses, in addition to free posters and advertising as well as a platform to market their products.
But in the end, Small Business Saturday will only be a success for these niche businesses if shoppers give in to American Express's emotional appeal to walk into Main Street shops and lay their money down on the counter.