Shawn Sproull, the general manager of Hide & Sole shoe and leather goods in downtown Missoula, said the place was inundated with shoppers on Small Business Saturday this past weekend.
“It was a fantastic Small Business Saturday,” he said. “We were busy all day. We were up about 35 percent (in sales) from last year, and last year we saw a bump of 25 percent over the previous year.”
Sproull said he had eight employees working and had pre-ordered a huge amount of inventory to prepare.
“It’s amazing how small your store feels with eight employees and 50 customers,” he said.
The Downtown Missoula Partnership (DMP) has been vigorously promoting Small Business Saturday as an alternative to Black Friday to encourage local shopping, which keeps more money in communities.
The relatively nice weather this year contributed to huge crowds turning out for the event, according to Kristen Sackett, the marketing and events coordinator for the DMP.
“It was definitely way busier than last year,” she said. “It was noticeably busier. People were saying there were lines out the door at the Green Light and it sounded like it was super, super busy, and even after I left at 3 p.m. there were crowds. It seemed super successful, and people were out having a fantastic time.”
Sackett estimates that she handed out 200 shopping bags and 300 inserts with local shopping deals by noon on Saturday, along with about that many cups of hot cocoa.
“Everywhere I looked downtown on the sidewalks, it was full of people having a grand time,” she said.
Doug Ness, the owner of Missoula Wine Merchants downtown, also said it seemed busier than last year.
“The weather was also better,” he said. “Small Business Saturday seems to have become a real thing. I’m downtown-centric, but it seems like, at least in small towns like ours, that it’s a thing that people really pay attention to.”
Unlike some retail stores downtown, Ness doesn’t think Small Business Saturday is his biggest sales day of the year. That’s because, he said, most people buy wine in advance of holidays.
“Wednesday before Thanksgiving was a better day for us,” he said. “The 23rd of December and Christmas Eve are our biggest days.”
The event was started by the credit card company American Express, which estimates Small Business Saturday in 2016 generated $15.4 billion in sales for small businesses.
“The American economy has always been driven by the entrepreneurial nature of its citizens, and that is also true here in Montana,” said Montana Small Business Association district director Wayne Gardella. “These hard-working entrepreneurs create jobs for our families, bring in dollars to our economy and further the development of this state.”