Black Friday is one of the most notorious shopping days of the year, but many local businesses are more focused on the following day: Small Business Saturday.
Laramie businesses have been participating in the nationwide shop-local initiative for years, but more businesses are participating this year than ever before, according to Rachelle Barkhurst, chair of the Laramie Main Street Alliance’s Small Business Saturday team.
Each year LMSA reaches out to current and “especially new businesses” about Small Business Saturday, Barkhurst said, and this year the response was huge. Over 70 businesses are participating, up from 50 participants last holiday season.
“We have also some businesses hosting artists or other businesses, so it could be closer to 80 or 90 by the time we get all said and done,” Barkhurst said.
Over 19 downtown businesses are offering extended operating hours throughout November and December to accommodate holiday shoppers. Special holiday hours go as late as 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and many businesses are offering special Sunday afternoon hours, typically around noon – 4 p.m.
Some businesses outside the downtown district will also be offering extended hours and promotions.
Beyond retail businesses, seven restaurants in Laramie are participating for the first time by offering drink, brunch or other specials Saturday. LMSA even partnered with Bond’s Brewing Co. to brew a special Small Business Saturday beer, which will be released at 9 a.m. that Saturday.
Other sectors like real estate companies, lawn care companies and more are also offering deals and promotions for the first time this year.
More than just shopping, Barkhurst said “creating more experiences has been the goal this year” including encouraging businesses to offer family-friendly activities for shoppers like hot chocolate stations and pictures with Santa.
“People can shop small any day, but it’s good to just have that energy of the whole town making everybody excited about it,” she said.
Small Business Saturday does not shy away from inclement weather. Luckily, Barkhurst said last year’s snowstorm didn’t stop a big turnout from huddling through the cold as they stopped from store to store.
“We just hope that people know that it’s Wyoming, and we’re just going to do it anyway,” she said.
Shopping local does more than just help small-business owners; for every dollar spent locally, 67 cents stays within the local economy, Barkhurst said.
Hoping to measure some of the impacts on the local economy, shoppers can visit LMSA’s downtown office that Saturday or the following Monday to be entered for a chance to win gift certificates accepted at most downtown stores.
The more receipts from shopping local on Small Business Saturday shoppers bring with them to the LMSA office on Ivinson Avenue, the more chances they’ll have to win the certificates.
“We really want to have some way of tracking how much is going into the community on that day and so this is just a new thing we want to try out,” Barkhurst said.
Many businesses are collaborating with each other as well, giving discounts to folks who have receipts from other local businesses or other partnerships.
Small Business Saturday is just one of Laramie’s efforts to focus on shopping local this holiday season. The Laramie Boomerang, in partnership with UniWyo Federal Credit Union, issued the $2 Challenge earlier this fall.
The challenge encourages residents to pledge to spend $100 of their holiday shopping budget at local businesses. To see the impact the spending has on the local economy, shoppers are encouraged to exchange their local shopping money into $2 bills at either UniWyo branch in Laramie.
Those taking the pledge can sign up online at www.laramieboomerang.com/2buckchallenge/ to add their name to the list of others who have committed to shopping local.
For an updated shopping guide with participating small businesses, visit www.shopsmalllaramie.com.