Long after Thanksgiving spills into Black Friday, when hordes of people begin their holiday shopping rites, HFA member Cheri Hochstetler will keep the doors closed at Dwell, the eclectic furniture store she and her husband own with friends in Coralville, Iowa.
“We’re going to have a quiet Thanksgiving that includes giving our staff some time at home with family,” said Hochstetler. “We’ve had a really great year and our staff needs a break.”
Saturday, however, is all hands on deck for Hochstetler and her staff in hopes that they’ll be rewarded for their community ties on Small Business Saturday, the annual retail celebration that turns 10 on Nov. 28.
Small Business Saturday was created in 2010 by American Express as a way of honoring local businesses across the nation. Taken as a whole, those businesses are anything but small. The Small Business Administration estimates there are 30.7 million small businesses in the U.S. (companies with fewer than 500 employees). And while the pandemic has shut down thousands of them this year, they still account for 99.9 percent of all U.S. businesses.
But those businesses face serious competition from the other 0.1 percent. Big-box and online stores like Wayfair, Amazon, Target, Walmart and others are now the main competition for furniture retailers. Hochstetler knows this, which is why she values the close relationship she has with Coralville and her customers. That’s why her business gives so freely to Habitat for Humanity and Friends of the Animal Center, a local animal shelter.
“For 23 years we’ve always been here for our community and they’ve always been there for us,” said Hochstetler. “I don’t see that changing now.”
She said she supports her community because it’s the right thing to do. In the same breath, however, she acknowledges those eleemosynary acts do not go unnoticed in Coralville, a small suburb of Iowa City. “Families and millennials, that’s a big thing for them to see a business that supports where they live. They want to return the favor, I suppose.”
‘Heartbeat of our industry’
HFA CEO Mark Schumacher doesn’t like the phrase small business because, he said, “it sometimes connotes a lesser type of business.”
“Our industry was founded by smaller, family businesses, many of which grew into the giants of today,” he said. “To me, single-store retailers are the heartbeat of our industry, connected to their communities in unique, meaningful ways. They are part of the fabric of their city or town, and they serve the needs of their communities because they know their customers well.”
HFA member Shayne Marsh with Affordable Furniture in Bakersfield, Calif., said the demand for furniture since his state reopened from the mandated shutdowns has made 2020 one of his best sales years in memory. He hopes the final weeks will keep that momentum going. It starts with Small Business Saturday.
“It’s not easy going up against some of the big-box stores, but we try to give customers the service and attention they won’t get at those places,” said Marsh. “We want everyone who comes in to feel special because of the way we treat them.”
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Schumacher said that extra attention to customers is what separates smaller furniture stores from their bigger competition – not just on Small Business Saturday but year-round. “Businesses of all sizes can learn from smaller home furnishing retailers what relationship-building and customer engagement really look like,” he said.