By Mark A. Diaz
Now in its first year of operation, the South County Chambers of Commerce (SCCC) will join other Neighborhood Champions across the nation on Saturday, Nov. 24 for Small Business Saturday (SBS). Formerly the Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach Chamber of Commerce, the SCCC formed with the merging of several chambers that work collectively to aid small businesses throughout the Five Cities and Nipomo.
“The reason we decided to become a small business champion this year with the program that American Express does,” said Jocelyn Brennan SCCC president and CEO, “is because a lot of our retail members that are small businesses are really struggling competing against Amazon during the holiday time.” Brennan noted that one of the takeaways from the Central Coast Economic Forecast held on November 2 was that despite the great shape the economy is in, retail still suffers at the local level. Almost all of the industries in San Luis Obispo County are expected to grow, but retail continues to flounder. “I think people really want to shop small,” said Brennan. “They want to support their local businesses. I think a lot of times people don’t realize what a big need it is and how important it is now more than ever.” Brennan added that many of the products that people are buying online are available locally. She said that shopping in the Village of Arroyo Grande is a unique experience, something that cannot be duplicated by sitting at home and shopping online.
Kat Stowell, owner of Pure Bliss Spa, located at 237 W Tefft St. in Nipomo, said that she and her husband had always been involved with the Nipomo Chamber and hope now with the merger that the SCCC’s resources will expand the spa’s exposure with advertising. “Now that Nipomo is part of the South County Chamber,” said Stowell, “I feel that it’s going to really help us down here at Nipomo because we’ve always been kind of forgotten.” Stowell’s contribution to the SBS is offering 15 complimentary minutes added to a 60 or 90-minute massage gift card purchased as well as giving customers $10 off if they purchase $75 or more on merchandise. The spa also offers gift wrapping for free.
Sports Dugout, that sells sports memorabilia and other collectibles, located at 103 E Branch St. in the Village of Arroyo Grande, along with an estimated 25 other business, is participating in SBS through the chamber.
“People don’t understand the value of purchasing local and keeping their money local,” said Sports Dugout owner, Lance Gonzales. Gonzales, an active member of the community with his involvement in Kiwanis, the AG Village Improvement Association and a chamber ambassador, said that there are many ways shopping small helps local economies. Beyond a share of the sales tax, Gonzales noted that local owners support organizations by donating their time and money, things not generally seen from big box stores.
“The most important thing,” said Gonzales, “if we don’t keep these small businesses going, we’re not going to have a choice.” He went on to say, “People have to understand supporting the local economy gives you choices and opportunities.”
Brennon said she is extremely pleased with SCCC’s performance. She described the new chamber’s growth as “explosive” and that it has been growing “by leaps and bounds” with additional members and corresponding events. She admits looking forward to the end of the year, so she can get a little rest and spend time with her family. “It’s been really busy but in a really fantastic way,” said Brennon. Small Business Saturday was created by American Express in partnership with the non-profit National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2010 as a counterpart to Black Friday and Cyber Monday and promotes the patronage of local businesses. Amex provides signage, advertising and swag to businesses to encourage foot traffic. Experiencing steady growth since its inception, SBS witnessed a decrease in sales and shoppers in 2017 with 108 million consumers spending $12.9 billion compared to the previous year’s reporting of 112 customers and $15 in sales. Sales also reflect online purchases from local businesses, According to the 2017 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey, generated by Amex and the National Federation of Independent Business.
To see which shops are participating in the American Express Small Business Saturday, visit SHOP SMALL or search “shop small map” in your internet browser.