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Shoppers turn to neighborhoods for Small Business Saturday

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The Pioneer Press has a list of events in honor of Small Business Saturday. The term was coined by American Express four years ago in the depths of the recession. It's helped local retailers market themselves, but it doesn't pack the same fourth-quarter wallop that Black Friday does for the big guys.

Instead, like many small businesses, St. Paul-based Creative Kidstuff counts on a steady stream of loyal customers all year long.

"I can't count on any one day to make the season," said Roberta Bonhoff, CEO of Creative Kidstuff.Still, free snacks are on hand,and, she said, employees are ready to offer one-on-one advice to customers who ask for it.

Mary Leonard, owner of St. Paul sweets shop Chocolat Celeste, said she makes more than half her revenue during the holidays. Increasingly, Leonard has been looking to online shoppers.

"I work very, very hard at the Internet," Leonard said. "We spend a lot of time there, so our website is higher on the search engines."

Experts say search engines make it easy for shoppers can go online, and still stay local.

"Google loves local business," said Tim Carroll, vice president of customer engagement at Deluxe, a business services company in Shoreview. He said 78 percent of shoppers plan to do some of their holiday buying on the internet.

"Local search results get preferential treatment there," he said.

KSTP reports that some retailers like Bibelot Shops are offering small discounts.

WCCO says others are banding together in joint marketing efforts. Twelve stores in the North Loop are participating.

“We are hoping to have new people to come in, hoping to celebrate being a local store,” FinnStyle manager Elina Koivusaari said.

"What was really exciting to us is the idea that there are so many great retailers down here, but we all do different things," said Ben Morrison, owner of Handsome Bikes. "We don’t step on each other’s toes. There’s plenty for room for everybody.”

Roe Wolfe, a women’s store, is making pop-up space available for local designers who don't have their own storefronts. Plus it is offering discounts and snacks.

According to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, some critics say the event was invented to benefit American Express more than small businesses.

But American Express says it doesn't matter which card you use on Small Business Saturday.

A spokesperson for the event says participation grows every year.

"In my 25 years in retail, I've never seen an event have this kind of a positive effect for small business," said Patricia Norins. She said last year 100 million consumers "shopped small."

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