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Christopher Bjorke, Forum Communications, Published November 23 2012

Shopping: Today is a day to think small

GRAND FORKS – Weary shoppers of Grand Forks, small businesses want you to hold out one more day.

“Save a little bit of money for us little guys,” said Mickie Nakonechny, owner of the True Colors clothing store downtown.

Nakonechny and some other local business owners are embracing Small Business Saturday, a movement to direct shoppers’ awareness – and dollars – to locally owned stores after the annual post-Thanksgiving retail rush that usually benefits chains and big-box stores.

True Colors is offering 25 percent discounts on some products for the event, which businesses are promoting through ads or social media, including the Twitter hashtag #SmallBusinessSaturday.

“When we buy locally, the money stays local, and it’s good for everyone in Grand Forks,” said Hyrum Patterson, a store manager for Ferguson Books and Media, which has a buy-two, get-two-free promotion.

The small stores do not expect the shoppers serious enough to camp out in mall parking lots for a bargain to give up on the big retailers. They just want to find a place in shoppers’ holiday budgets for the more unusual, personal or specialized products small stores usually rely on to compete with more powerful chains.

“You can go to Target or Wal-Mart and get a good discount, but it’s the same thing as everyone else gets,” said Tessa Hiney, co-owner of the Kittson & 3rd clothing boutique in downtown Grand Forks.

The small business idea is being driven by a big company, though. American Express began promoting it in 2010 and is offering card holders rebates for using their cards to shop at participating small stores.

A proclamation by North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple also bestowed Nov. 24 with a seal of officialdom and several “whereas” statements, such as “Whereas, small businesses are the backbone of our economy and the glue that holds communities together.”

Not everyone had received the message, including Allen Larsien, co-owner of Scan Design furniture stores in Grand Forks and Fargo. He had not heard of the promotion Friday but agreed with the idea.

“I like the concept,” he said. “It’s kind of an uphill battle to fight against the big boys.”

While the big stores drive people to spend, small stores can still try for a piece of the action.

“They get people out and get them in that shopping frenzy,” he said. “Smaller businesses just hope they can get some of that.”

Christopher Bjorke writes for the Grand Forks Herald.

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