Kelowna’s metaphoric heart will beat a bit faster on Saturday.
The city’s first ever Small Shop Saturday is an attempt to lure locals away from the big box stores and online shopping and bring them into the heart of downtown.
The concept was spawned after Jan Johnson, co-owner of Tigerlily Fashions, had a conversation at a cocktail party a few weeks ago.
“Somebody told me that they had heard about a promotion that American Express had put on in the U.S. They’ve done it for two years now; it’s called Small Business Saturday. It’s sort of the antidote to Black Friday,” said Johnson.
“I ran home from the party and Googled it. I was so excited with all the stuff I saw. I thought: We can do that.”
The purpose of Small Shop Saturday is to encourage people to support small local businesses.
“What we’re asking is for the people of Kelowna to pledge to do some of their Christmas shopping downtown. (Downtown shops) are pledging to offer them some little extras on Small Shop Saturday, just to reward them for shopping local.”
Businesses who are participating in the event will have a sign on their front doors so that shoppers know that they will be going into a store that may be offering a special deal.
Those little extras may come in the form of sales, hot chocolate, cookies, massages, free gift wrapping, in-store entertainment and even strolling singers.
According to Johnson, small shops are the “lifeblood” of their communities.
“The heart of the city is really the small independent shops. You don’t go to a new city wanting to see the big chain stores, because they’re pretty much all the same.”
Johnson said that smaller merchants typically have a greater knowledge of the products that they sell.
“If you go into a small shop, they’re probably going to tell you the story behind something that you’re looking at. Sometimes it’s nice to hear the story behind what you’re looking at: Who made it and why they made it.”
Johnson also mentioned that local stores tend to feature local products, they keep more money within the community and create jobs for citizens of Kelowna.
Since Johnson only learned about this type of small business promotion a few weeks ago, it’s been a challenge trying to organize the event in such a short period of time.
“I approached the Downtown Kelowna Association. They’re very much behind it; they want to start a series of Small Shop Saturdays in the new year. But they didn’t feel that there was enough time to organize it, and their budget was shot for this year.
“I asked them to send out an email to all of their members. We kept in communication about who wanted to come on board. The response was phenomenal.”
The concept is not a one-off, said Johnson. She hopes to see more Small Shop Saturdays in the new year, with the goal of eventually having one every month.
A final perk for those considering attending Small Shop Saturday is that parking—throughout all of downtown—is free on every Saturday in December.