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Small Business Saturday sales dip: National survey

Julia Clunn, 27, of Washington D.C., visits one

Julia Clunn, 27, of Washington D.C., visits one of the shops in Port Jefferson on Nov. 26, 2016 during Small Business Saturday Credit: Johnny Milano

Small Business Saturday in-store sales are estimated to have taken a hit this year, despite record numbers of shoppers, because more customers shopped online and spread their holiday spending over a longer period of time, according to a national survey released Monday.

U.S. shoppers spent about $15.4 billion on Small Business Saturday this year, down nearly 5 percent from $16.2 billion last year, according to the National Federation of Independent Business and American Express. Small Business Saturday was started by American Express in 2010 to promote shopping at small businesses.

A record 112 million people shopped on Saturday at their local independent retailers and restaurants throughout the country, marking a 13 percent increase from 2015, the survey found. But shoppers spent less per person, the survey said, a trend that was consistent with lower spending at major retailers on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday.

Long Island statistics for Saturday weren’t available.

“I don’t think locally sales went down,” said Phil Andrews, president of the Long Island African American Chamber of Commerce. “There was a concerted effort to buy local, but more people are shopping online.”

Small business is a big deal on Long Island, where 96.3 percent of the region’s 96,327 business establishments employ fewer than 50 people, according to the most recent census data, from 2013.

“It is always a good thing to shop at your local store and keep the dollars here on Long Island,” said Francesca Carlow, president of the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce.

One contributing factor to the national sales decline could be that American Express offered two times membership rewards points for shopping at small businesses through Dec. 31, instead of just on Small Business Saturday, Carlow said. Moreover, this year Hanukkah begins late, running from Dec. 24 to Jan. 1.

Shoppers “feel that it is not crunchtime yet,” Carlow said.

Cherry Kerr, owner of Rashadema Boutique & Bridal in Baldwin, a women’s clothing store, said her store did about 40 percent more in sales than last year, with customers spending $200 on average. Spending was down per customer, but she had more shoppers.

“It was very, very good,” Kerr said.

At least 200 people participated in a “shop mob,” in which a group of people spend money together, as part of a Shop Caribbean Saturday event that coincided with Small Business Saturday. The group shopped throughout the day at two restaurants and a food market, in Hempstead, West Hempstead and Elmont.

The business owners “saw an additional 25 percent boost,” said Hanif Russell, co-founder of Caribbean Business Connections, an organization for small-business owners from the Caribbean. “The sales and the discounts were an incentive, but people came out because they wanted to support their local business.”

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