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Under cloudy skies, steadfast 'shop local' fans show up for Small Business Saturday in St. Louis

Under cloudy skies, steadfast 'shop local' fans show up for Small Business Saturday in St. Louis

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ST. LOUIS — Morning rain and cold drizzle kept shoppers from flooding local small business districts on Saturday, one of the most important sales days of the year. But shop owners still reported brisk sales — a sign the holiday shopping season was opening with aplomb.

Wendy Harris, owner of Artisans in the Loop, said she’s sure some people stayed home. But fans of the boutique gallery in the Delmar Loop showed up.

“We’ve had good sales,” Harris said. “We’ve seen a lot of our regulars come in to support Small Business Saturday.”

Thanksgiving weekend kicks holiday shopping into high gear, critical weeks for small businesses, where many make a substantial portion of their annual sales. The season has started well this year: Smaller retailers took in nearly four times as much revenue on Black Friday as they did on an average day in October, according to software company Adobe.

But it will be especially compact this year: With November starting on a Friday, the calendar pushed Thanksgiving — always the fourth Thursday — to the last week of the month, leaving six fewer days than last year for shopping.

Kelly von Plonski, owner of Subterranean Books in the Loop, said the Saturday before Christmas, known to some as “Super Saturday” or “Panic Saturday,” is usually the store’s biggest day all year.

Small Business Saturday will likely come in second, she said.

Von Plonski staffs up every year, not just to handle the increased traffic, but also to respond to all the requests for help in selecting a perfect gift.

Patrice Estes, manager of the neighboring Plowsharing Crafts boutique, said she had been bringing inventory out into the store all day.

“It has dawned on people how close Christmas is,” Estes said, before stepping away to help a cashier diffuse a line that had gathered in front of the register.

“It’s a struggle for brick-and-mortar stores,” Estes said. “I hope having these unique products and all the tourism in St. Louis will keep us going.”

Ashley George Gill, of University City, shopped Saturday at Artisans in the Loop.

The danger of big box stores, she said, is buying the same items as everyone else.

“This is where you can buy something really unique,” she said. “I’m a huge supporter of local business.”

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