Champaign Businesses Offer Shoppers The Local Experience On ‘Small Business Saturday’

 
Live Action Games, a video game store on University Avenue, is one of several local shops participating in Small Business Saturday Nov. 24 in downtown Champaign.

Live Action Games, a video game store on University Avenue, is one of several local shops participating in Small Business Saturday Nov. 24 in downtown Champaign.

Anna Casey/Illinois Public Media

Black Friday and Cyber Monday may be some of the biggest shopping days of the year for large retailers, but smaller shops across the country are betting on Small Business Saturday to bring local customers through their doors. And businesses in downtown Champaign will be celebrating with a Shop Local event throughout the day.  

“Shop Local is a movement where we’re encouraging people to patronize small, locally-owned businesses,” said Geneveive Kirk, director of the Champaign Center Partnership, the city’s business association that serves the downtown, midtown and campustown neighborhoods.  

She says while it can be convenient to do holiday shopping online, it doesn’t compare to the experience of walking into the businesses that she says make Champaign’s downtown area unique. 

“The experience of walking in a shop, meeting with a business owner, maybe getting some advice or some personalized counsel … is such a different experience,” Kirk said.

Nationwide, more than 164 million people are planning to shop between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, and about 67 million people are expected to shop on Small Business Saturday, according to the National Retail Federation. 

The day was coined in 2010 by American Express as a way to encourage people to spend outside of big-box stores after the Great Recession, and to encourage small businesses to use American Express. Regardless of it's corporate origins, the concept has since been embraced by local business associations and chambers of commerce around the country as a way to support local shops. And last year, Americans spent $12.9 billion at independently-owned stores on Small Business Saturday. 

“It keeps dollars in our community, it keeps jobs here, it allows those businesses to support the local community as well," Kirk said. "So, I think it’s a great thing.”  

Live Action Games, a video game store on University Avenue, is one of several downtown businesses that will participate in the Shop Local event on Saturday. Store owner Adrian Astorina says that it can be difficult to compete against some of the large, chain video game retail stores, but he's able to offer customers something different. 

“We offer things that they can’t.” Astorina said. “They can’t be as personable as we can. It’s more of a homey feel.”

The Champaign Center Partnership, which works with more than 125 Champaign businesses, hopes to bring families to local shops they may have not explored through a storybook-themed scavenger hunt for kids throughout the day Saturday. That event will lead up to the Parade of Lights, which begins at 6 p.m. on Neil Street in downtown Champaign. 

Story source: WILL