Retailers, restaurants look forward to Small Business Saturday, with hopes for improving business climate

November 23, 2018

Though small businesses often have Black Friday deals too, the big-box stores and malls get most of the attention. So in 2010, credit card giant American Express launched Small Business Saturday to ensure smaller companies also get a piece of that holiday shopping pie.

“Small Business Saturday gives them that little extra edge,” said Dawn Starns, who directs the Louisiana chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business.

Last year, 108 million shoppers spent $12.9 billion at small, independent stores and restaurants the Saturday after Thanksgiving, according to a survey by NFIB and American Express. Ninety percent of consumers surveyed said Small Business Saturday has a positive impact on their communities, NFIB says.

Though state-specific data isn’t available through NFIB, Starns said Small Business Saturday has caught on in Louisiana.

“We see our members out there getting geared up for all the big sales, and just trying to find a way to compete,” she said. Starns urges consumers to not only shop local, but to eat at locally owned restaurants and stop at local coffee shops while they’re out.

Buying local not only helps local businesses; it’s good for the local tax base, she adds. She says 67 cents of every dollar spent stays in the community when you shop local small businesses.

NFIB’s national surveys are finding widespread optimism among small business owners, and Starns sees some of the same optimism in Louisiana. But next year, she hopes lawmakers choose to streamline the state’s tax collection structure, which she argues would greatly improve the state’s business climate.

“I have business owners outside the state tell me all the time, ‘Y’all state is the worst to do business in,’” Starns said.

Not only does Louisiana have the highest average combined state and local sales tax rates in the nation, according to the Tax Foundation, the state’s system is often said to be the most convoluted. Activities exempted from sales tax by the state are often taxed at the local level. And Louisiana has 452 local sales tax jurisdictions, according to the Council of State Taxation, which helps to earn state sales tax administration an “F” on COST’s scorecard.

Louisiana has set up a single entity to collect taxes from online sales, Starns notes.

“Let’s just take that model, roll up our system, put it into one, and make the Department of Revenue the collector,” she said. Though the details haven’t been hammered out yet, NFIB will be pushing for that change during next year’s legislative session, Starns said.

But local sales tax collectors, many of which are politically influential sheriff’s offices, are opposed to that idea. Michael Ranatza, executive director of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association, could not be reached for comment for this story, which was written shortly before Thanksgiving. But in other media reports he has been quoted saying local governments do a good job collecting taxes and wouldn’t trust Baton Rouge to do it for them.

Here are some of the ways owners of shops and restaurants can make the most of Small Business Saturday, according to NFIB:

Stay on top of your social media. If you’re on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or Pinterest, post often and promote any Small Business Saturday deals. Use the hashtags #ShopSmall and #SmallBizSat so shoppers can find you easily. Showcase the merchandise that would make a great gift. Group items on a table with a sign saying it would be the perfect gift for Dad or a great gift for the grandparents. Restaurants can offer Small Business Saturday specials and gift cards. Steal a page from the Black Friday playbook and offer doorbusters. Chain stores know a great way to drive shoppers to their stores is by offering special deals at different times of the day. There’s no reason a small business can’t do the same thing. Partner with nearby businesses. Pool your resources to buy advertising promoting the neighborhood as a shopping destination or team up with other businesses on in-store promotions. For example, if they buy a pair of shoes here, let them know they can save 10 percent on socks next door.Don’t forget to tell your regular customers about Small Business Saturday. Put a sign in your shop and fliers in bags reminding folks to come back the Saturday after Thanksgiving for special deals.

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