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Saturday shoppers urged to think small

Updated: 2013-11-30T15:59:15Z

By MARK DAVIS

The Kansas City Star

No matter how big your holiday gift list is, shop small on Saturday.

The day after Black Friday has become independent retailers’ day. Skip the big box stores and franchised shops, say mom-and-pop backers, local business listings and even a big charge-card issuer.

“These businesses are the backbone of the community. They get involved in the community,” said Maria Meyers, director of KCSourceLink. “We encourage people to shop locally, not only during the holiday season but year round.”

KCSourceLink formed a decade ago to help entrepreneurs connect with business incubators, accelerators, angel investors, micro lenders and the like.

About a year ago, it launched a shop local listing on its website to help consumers find those independent retailers. It’s promoting Shop Local Saturday for the hundreds of local retailers that occupy its growing list.

Such efforts are a leg up for small independent retailers who often live by word-of-mouth marketing in a world saturated with big advertising budgets and campaigns.

Cash mobs are another leg up for small businesses. This is when organizers direct consumers to bring $20 — in cash — to a targeted independent retailer and spend it.

One is set to hit esther’s African Cuisine in Lenexa at 11 a. m. Saturday. The restaurant and gift shop came out on top in the voting on the Kansas City Metro Area Cash Mob page on Facebook.

Esther Mulbah had started out as a one-table sideshow in an African gift shop and moved to her restaurant space this April, keeping the gift shop idea as the sideshow. And she looks for local shops when she’s the consumer.

“That’s where we go first,” Mulbah said. “It’s something my family and I do.”

Cash Mob organizer Kelly Dobyns Ziegler said only stand-alone, locally owned retailers who give back to the community qualify for a cash mob.

The cash, by the way, helps a small retailer avoid sometimes hefty transaction fees that shops pay when you use plastic.

Swipe fees, as they’re called, are why the Main Street Alliance challenges American Express’ involvement in Small Business Saturday. The credit card company promotes the day as one that its card holders should devote to shopping at small local shops.

Its website directs shoppers to businesses that accept American Express cards, including online-only vendors such as Beth Ballenger’s Origami Owl in Lee’s Summit.

The Main Street Alliance said in a conference call Tuesday that American Express charges higher swipe fees than other companies.

The alliance’s recommendation is to bring cash or use a debit card if you must swipe because debit fees that retailers pay are lower than credit fees. Rewards cards hit retailers with the highest fees, the alliance said.

Small Business Saturday is a marketing idea for American Express but still worth promoting apart from the card company, said Chris Olsen, who founded FINDitKC.

His business shoots videos for clients, essentially taking customers to the business virtually, and then promotes them online.

And Olsen focuses on those locally owned businesses that he calls “the authentic” Kansas City experience.

To reach Mark Davis, call 816-234-4372 or send email to mdavis@kcstar.com.

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