Shopping? Small Retailers Want Your Business, Too

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Jammed between Gray Thursday, Black Friday and Cyber Monday is yet another day devoted to shopping: Small Business Saturday.

Wallets are expected to open yet again on Saturday — this time for mom-and-pop stores. Main Street in Littleton, Colo., is filled with them. The street is lined with small bars and restaurants along with other businesses, including a spice store and a men's clothing boutique.

Dave Drake owns Colorado Frame and Savvy Stuff, the "savvy stuff" being women's accessories, purses, scarves and decorations.

Drake, who has owned the store for 34 years, says he and his fellow business owners give customers what they want and what they don't expect.

"It's unique, it's fun, it's local. We will carry products that they won't find anywhere else except in downtown Littleton, in the historic area, such as a poster of the old racetrack that used to be down here," he says. "And across the street, she carries art and products that were made here locally. They won't find that anywhere else. So if they want to see it, they've got to come here."

Drake says he's seen a difference during the holiday season since businesses along the strip in Littleton started participating in Small Business Saturday three years ago.

The government estimates that last year 100 million people participated in Small Business Saturday.

The idea grew out of a program from American Express. Some say it's a way for the company to court small business, which often don't take AmEx cards because of higher fees.

The company continues to spend millions promoting the day, which has also drawn support from the White House.

"Half the people who work in this country own or work for a small business," says Karen Mills, who heads the Small Business Administration. "You know, two out of every three net new jobs come from small businesses."

Those small businesses are vital to the country's economic recovery, according to Chris Christopher of IHS Global Insight.

"It's noticeable that the employment numbers, even though above water, haven't been the greatest," he says, "and one of the reasons is small businesses not doing that well."

Christopher says he doesn't expect small retailers to help with the job outlook anytime soon because they're being squeezed between the big chain stores on one side and the online companies on the other.

"Small businesses are just having a hard time competing, given the financial meltdown and the anemic growth in its aftermath, especially on consumer spending, and they can't compete on prices, and they can't compete in terms of outreach, advertising and other issues like that," he says. "So they're really having a hard time of it."

Christopher says, despite consumers" best intentions to help small businesses, many are likely to forget them when they go shopping online on Cyber Monday.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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