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Small retailers push for local support

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Tess Vigeland: All right time to address the elephant in the room that is Black Friday. You might have gotten the impression from TV pictures that everybody hit the stores early today. But just outside our studios here in downtown Los Angeles, we found some folks who weren’t shopping. And we asked them why on earth they weren’t participating in the buying binge.

Anti-Black Friday: Nah, you’re never going to see me at an after-Thanksgiving sale, just because there’s too many people, and I don’t really look forward to getting everybody something. I’m not going to shop on Black Friday. Black Friday is too dangerous. I never go and buy on Black Friday. I always stay home. You’re only saving a couple of dollars, it doesn’t make any difference. The lines are too long, it’s too crowded, you have to deal with traffic and people, and I don’t want to have to deal with that.

Yeah, I’m with that guy. And so are several cities in the San Francisco Bay area, where it is Plaid Friday. That’s what they’re calling an effort to get shoppers to buy from independently-owned, small retailers. Rachel Dornhelm tells us these kinds of promotions are often worth the cost to put them on.

RACHEL DORNHELM: Cynthia Bragdon is the owner of Urban Indigo, a small gift store in Oakland, Calif. As part of Plaid Friday she’s cut all prices in her store 10 percent, including silver necklaces made by a local artisan from recycled watch parts.

Plaid Friday is a new initiative by alliances of locally-owned businesses to turn Black Friday in their favor. Consumers are being asked to dress in plaid to show support for scores of independent
retailers who are offering special discounts today.

Bragdon says taking part in promotions like this is some of the most cost-effective
marketing she does.

CYNTHIA BRAGDON: Oakland supports it to the extent that they’ll pay for some of the advertising and promotion. So we’re getting new customers for very little money.

The city of Oakland is putting $50,000 towards its buy-local campaign. It’s part of an effort to retain some of the estimated $10 million in sales tax lost every year by residents shopping outside the city limits.

Other cities also have active buy local movements.

STACY MITCHELL: Salt Lake City, New Orleans, Tampa, Fla., and Raleigh, N.C., has a new campaign.

Stacy Mitchell is with the Institute for Local Self Reliance. After last holiday season she surveyed 1,100 small retailers. Those in
places with strong buy-local campaigns reported doing significantly better than independent stores in places without them.

MITCHELL: The idea of supporting locally-owned businesses had really taken hold in their community, and they felt it was really a buffer against the worst effects of the recession.

There are now over 130 Buy Local alliances across the country. About 30,000 businesses belong.

I’m Rachel Dornhelm for Marketplace.

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