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How Small Businesses are Capturing the Spirit (and Sales) of the Season

Small Business Saturday might have wrapped just a few weekends ago but shop owners everywhere can parlay the benefits of that American Express-founded holiday into gains during the rest of the Christmas season. It just takes some work. Well, maybe a lot of work.

“Basically, I’m just trying to do a lot of events and get people in the plaza,” says Blacktop Surf Shop’s Brooke O’Hair, owner of the Largo, FL-based store, in an interview with Lifestyle Monitor™. It offers clothing that has vintage, Western and surf vibes for men, women and children, as well as home goods. “I’m in a little strip plaza in the heart of a local community. So, I’m just trying to get people out and looking at items in person in addition to online. That way, I can actually meet them, talk to them and create a relationship with them because a huge chunk of my customer base is local.”

O’Hair’s shop is one of four small businesses Cotton Incorporated is collaborating with for the holidays. From cozy staples to the perfect skate shorts, these small shops have put cotton apparel at the forefront of their offerings. The shops are all promoted on the @discovercotton social media pages and are featured in articles on Cotton Incorporated’s The Fabric of Our Lives® website. The other small businesses are Ashe Couture in St. Petersburg, FL, Pigeon’s Roller Skate Shop in Long Beach, CA, and Hammies in Carpinteria, CA.

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Hammies, which makes vintage-style beach culture apparel for men, women, and kids, is “basically 95 percent” an online business, according to owner Grant Nestor. It also wholesales to about 80 retail boutiques around the country and operates a showroom that is open to the public. Hammies connects with its customers through social media, email, and an SMS list. It also runs ads on Facebook and Instagram. For the holidays, Nestor says the company offered a pre-Thanksgiving sale exclusively to people on its email list, then offered public access to the sale starting on Black Friday. As the holiday season continues, Hammies will be rolling out a new, humorous marketing campaign to encourage shoppers to check out its offerings.

“We did a photo shoot that was not exactly Christmas or holiday themed — it was ‘an awkward family photo’ theme,” Nestor said in an interview with Lifestyle Monitor™, alluding to the often formal portraits of the ‘70s that had memorable, if not quite optimal, outcomes. He said some of the shots for the upcoming campaign have holiday themes in the background. “We’ll be using that to continue to do holiday-related marketing. And we’ll be running one more promotion that will be emphasizing gifting, like a ‘buy one, get one’ kind of thing.”

This holiday, 8 percent of shoppers plan to buy clothing gifts at boutiques, whether in-store (4 percent) or online (5 percent), according to the 2022 Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle MonitorSurvey. More than one-quarter of all consumers (26 percent) were expected to shop in-store for holiday gifts on Small Business/Local Saturday.

Among those planning to shop for gifts online this holiday season, 55 percent were expected to shop on Black Friday, according to the Monitorresearch. Another 44 percent of ecommerce consumers said they planned to shop on Cyber Monday. Among the shopping holidays still left this month, 20 percent of consumers plan to shop on National Free Shipping Days (held in mid-December) and 14 percent expect to shop on Green Monday (Dec. 12 this year).  

A survey from Bankrate found that 95 percent of holiday shoppers say small businesses have at least one advantage over larger operations: more than half (51 percent) say they appreciate the unique gift ideas, 48 percent like the better customer service and 39 percent appreciate that small businesses foster a sense of community.

O’Hair can understand that link to community. Blacktop Surf Shop is both online and brick and mortar. Being a modern retailer, O’Hair says she uses a lot of social media to connect with her customers. Sometimes, it’s to promote new in-store items. Other times, it’s to promote upcoming events. And that’s where the true community building comes in. For instance, O’Hair has been organizing a Christmas market that Blacktop Surf will host in its plaza. Shoppers will have the opportunity to purchase from local vendors, and those of drinking age can enjoy beer and mimosas inside. There will be photos with Santa, as well as a Toys for Tots toy drive.

“There are so many stores where people can spend their money,” O’Hair says. “But for me, my entire life, I’d rather shop local because that’s directly benefiting your community. It’s also helping that one single person who put all their hard work, time, energy and money into something. I get to thank my customers personally. Even with online orders, I write personalized notes and put in things like stickers and free koozies with our logo. It’s a token showing my gratitude for helping a local small business.”

Nestor and his wife Sarah say customers come to their site because they offer apparel that shoppers can’t get anywhere else: recreated vintage pieces, as well as custom items like bell bottom jeans.

“We’re making clothing that isn’t just cool, but it takes you back to a time during the ‘70s when we weren’t even alive,” Sarah Nestor said in an interview with Lifestyle Monitor™. “There’s this nostalgia and we get the feeling that people really felt like they were part of something, and the clothing was really influential. So, we’re not only making clothing that is from those times, but everything about those times just seems so fun. And we want to make our site look like the catalogs from back then. We have the people look silly and cheesy — we’re trying to give our online customer an all-around experience and it’s not just the clothing.”

The Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor™ Survey is an ongoing research program that measures consumer attitudes and behaviors relating to apparel, shopping, fashion, sustainability, and more.

For more information about the Lifestyle Monitor™ Survey, please visit https://lifestylemonitor.cottoninc.com/.