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Black Friday still the big deal for small shops in Gainesville
Most boutiques benefit more from post-holiday rush than Small Business Saturday
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Main Street Gainesville promoted Small Business Saturday and "buy local" campaigns with these yard signs placed around the downtown Gainesville square. - photo by Joshua Silavent

Caroline Givogre is still navigating the vagaries of the retail world and the whims of shoppers a few months after opening her “quirky, unique” clothing store in the downtown Gainesville square.

“It takes a certain person to shop here,” said Givogre, owner and founder of Sweet Caroline’s Vintage.

It’s not just the funky, stylish clothes for men and women, but also the vinyl records, retro pins, posters, celebrity memorabilia, kids’ toys and more that draws an eclectic clientele to her door.

But if she’s being honest, Givogre said, Small Business Saturday wasn’t the kind of make-or-break opportunity as  it’s sometimes marketed to be.

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Caroline Givogre, owner of Sweet Caroline's Vintage in downtown Gainesville, said marketing for Small Business Saturday and "buy local" campaigns did not produce a dramatic surge in sales. Like other boutiques on the square, Black Friday remained the busiest of the busy shopping days. - photo by Joshua Silavent

Begun in 2010 by American Express in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Small Business Saturday produced an estimated 112 million shoppers and $15.4 million in sales in 2016.

It was designed as a way to drive business to small mom-and-pop shops and boutique retailers like Sweet Caroline’s who compete against big-box stores and online distributors for a share of the seasonal sales pie.

Georgia has more than 980,000 small businesses, according to the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center, which employ 44 percent of the state’s private-sector workforce.

“We encourage people to think about their local businesses, big or small, all the time,” said Tim Evans, vice president of economic development at the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.

But as far as holiday sales go, Black Friday still remains the busiest day for shops in downtown Gainesville.

At Fashion Ten, for example, Manager Brooke Dowdy said that while business was steady all day Saturday, the biggest crowds turned out Friday, with some shoppers waiting in the dark morning hours for the store to open.

Alyssa Andrews, assistant manager at Dress Up, said the store’s seasonal deals begin around Halloween and end after the New Year, which makes every weekend busy this time of year. But Black Friday still leads the charge.

“We joke, ‘This is like our Super Bowl,’” she said.

Givogre, meanwhile, said she expects sales to be as strong or stronger over the next coming weekends as Christmas approaches and shoppers scramble to find those last few special gifts.

And when the shoppers arrive, whether on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday or Giving Tuesday, Givogre said she’ll be ready for them.

“This is always what I’ve wanted to do,” she said.

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