Good — not great — Small Business Saturday traffic in Berkshires

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Photo Gallery | Small Business Saturday

An overcast, sometimes rainy Small Business Saturday saw some shopkeepers reporting "pleasant business," others great success, and still others reflecting on challenges facing brick and mortar shops in the Internet era.

Overall, traffic at shops around the county seemed steady but nothing unprecedented.

Michele Gietz, owner of Where'd You Get That!? in Williamstown, said fair weather helped make the day one to remember for her shop.

"They're coming, and they're coming from both local places and a distance," Gietz said.

She reported serving customers from Saratoga, N.Y., Albany, N.Y., Manchester, Vt., Northampton and South County.

"I'm very pleased with the combination of friendly, warmer weather and the numbers of people," Gietz said. "These are the kind of numbers we really need right now for an end-of-the-year boost."

In Pittsfield, a contingent of downtown shoppers spoke specifically of stepping out to help small businesses, as the day was intended to do, according to Museum Facsimiles owner Ken Green.

"People were coming in and stating very clearly that they were shopping North Street and having a good time doing it," Green said. "It was a good day. People kept us pleasantly busy."

In 2010, American Express spurred on Small Business Saturday with a statement credits promotion of $10 to $30 — and local merchants said the promotion indeed helped — but the company ended the policy this year.

In 2014, 88 million people hit the stores on Small Business Saturday, spending an estimated $14.3 billion.

With little to compare to huge discounts offered by bigger corporate stores on Black Friday, local small business owners seek out their own ways to boost sales.

"We do a lot of social media and some direct mail, which helps out as well," said Larry Lane, owner of the Arcadian Shop in Lenox, who reported solid traffic on Saturday. "We were on target with our goals."

Keith Bona, owner of Berkshire Emporium in North Adams, said facing down Internet shopping, storeowners must find ways to make people's shopping experience unique and "keep the store interesting."

"The challenge each year is more and more people get in the habit of buying online," Bona said. "It's a continual effort to get people to walk out the door and shop brick and mortar. To survive, you have to adapt."

Bona said business was "steady" and more people were out and about in downtown North Adams than on a typical Saturday.

People also hit the streets in another of the county's more active downtowns: Great Barrington.

"There was quite a bit of foot traffic downtown, absolutely more than the average Saturday," Teagan Taylor, an employee of Matrushka Toys & Gifts. "Small Business Saturday is a great way to get people in town and checking out the smaller stores."

Other proprietors in downtown Great Barrington reported being too busy to provide comment.

Contact Phil Demers at 413-496-6214.


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