Local business owners persevere to celebrate another year of Small Business Saturday

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Credit: Courtesy of Emily McCarthy

The national movement, Small Business Saturday takes place on Nov. 27 and it has big implications for local brick-and-mortar stores, which are preparing to welcome back in-person shoppers for some of the biggest sales of the year.

Small businesses across the country and in Savannah continue to face challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, battling labor shortages and a global supply chain crisis that is evident in our own backyard as over 71,000 shipping containers sit waiting at the Port of Savannah according to Ed McCarthy, the Georgia Ports Authority chief operating officer.

For businesses whose livelihood depends on the patronage of customers, the scale on which these businesses have been affected by the pandemic has been intimate, especially for those owners who make their own goods.

Elizabeth Seeger is the founder and owner of Satchel, 4 E. Liberty St., a store that sells custom handbags and leather goods, often providing customers with personalized gifts.

"Like everybody else right now, we are a little short staffed and also having some supply chain issues with our leather and materials. So, we're just trying to navigate that and still give people what they request in person and online," Seeger said.

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Credit: Courtesy of Elizabeth Seeger

Jackie Schott, executive director of the Savannah Downtown Business Association, said the although there are supply chain issues, Savannah is in a unique position when it comes to inventory.

"A lot of the stores downtown, they make their product or their purchasing from retailers that produce regional or made-in-America goods. And so, we're not seeing as many issues with their inventory being out on the containerships; their inventory is really in their shop right now," Schott said. "While maybe the jars or the bottles they were using have changed because of supply issues, the actual product is still here, which is why I think it's so great to make an effort and come downtown because a lot of these businesses really do have product and they're excited to welcome people back downtown."

Small-business owners have had to get creative to survive the pandemic, adopting online services, curbside pickup and appointment-only buying experiences to keep customers safe and their businesses running.

For Seeger, a focus on local advertising and posting regularly on Instagram helped her make sure her store was staying connected with customers. Despite the challenges, she said the store was busy during the holidays last year, and it's location on Liberty Street also meant they get a lot of tourist traffic with access to good parking.

As local brick-and-mortar stores reopened, ecommerce continued to rise. Customer unease led to the reliance on the convenience of online shopping and a dramatic consumer behavioral shift toward digital that a June 2021 PwC survey revealed is likely here to stay.

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Credit: Richard Burkhart, Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News

To combat the allure of shopping from home and the one-click satisfaction of purchasing an item, the City of Savannah has halted construction on Broughton Street and removed the barricades. They are also offering free holiday parking in city-owned garages on Small Business Saturday from noon to 8 p.m.

City-owned garages

  • Bryan Street Garage, 100 E Bryan St.
  • Liberty Street Garage, 401 W. Liberty St.
  • Robinson Garage, 132 Montgomery St.
  • State Street Garage, 100 E. State St.
  • Whitaker Street Garage, 7 Whitaker St.
  • Eastern Wharf Garage, 301 Passage Way

"While again, a lot of our stores do have options to shop their social media or in the last year many of them did create websites, we're really just encouraging people to come downtown and feel that holiday energy," Schott said.

That holiday energy can be felt as you walk into Clutter Furnishings & Interiors, 714 Mall Blvd., Suite 1, an upscale consigned furniture store owned by mother-daughter duo Lynn Rahn and Brooke Thomas. With festive holiday decorations adorning the store, Rahn said they're excited to welcome people back as they become more comfortable with shopping in person.

"We really are big into that — helping people perpetuate memories and good feelings," Rahn said. "We opened up and we were just being extremely cautious last year as we are this year. But this year, I think people feel a little bit better about things because of the vaccinations that they've received."

From the experiences of the small-business owners, the unwavering support of the Savannah community has helped keep them afloat.

"Small Business Saturday honestly blew us away last year because all of our locals just really came out and supported us and showed a lot of love, and I think, at that point, were really excited to kind of get out and go shopping in person. We were really surprised with the turnout last year," said Emily McCarthy, owner and designer of the lifestyle brand and store Emily McCarthy Shoppe, 2428 Abercorn St.

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Credit: Courtesy of Emily McCarthy

Customers who decide to shop small and support small, local businesses on Saturday can expect lots of in-person deals.

Almost all of the in-store offerings at Satchel are also available for purchase online, but those that shop in-person on Saturday can expect a storewide 10% discount on all items. The Emily McCarthy Shoppe is operating with a tiered system: the more you spend, the more they'll give. The shop will also have giveaways throughout the day with purchase. Rahn said Clutter is offering holiday gift certificates.

Laura Nwogu is the quality of life reporter for Savannah Morning News. Contact her at lnwogu@gannett.com. Twitter: @lauranwogu_

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Local business owners persevere to celebrate another year of Small Business Saturday