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It’s here: the big day for small business

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Chain stores may have a lock on Black Friday, but local shops and stores get their moment in the retail sun today — Small Business Saturday.

Albuquerque’s small and independent merchants hope they won’t be overlooked in the holiday buying rush, especially now that they have a day to call their own.

“We’re ready to go,” said Lisa Roller, manager of the Nambé store at The Shops at Paseo Crossing, days in advance of today’s nationwide event, which is aimed at bringing holiday shoppers into locally owned retail establishments the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Roller said Nambé had stocked up on one-of-a-kind home decor items, such as dishware, serving bowls and platters, napkin rings, flatware, cocktail shakers, picture frames and glassware in preparation for a busy shopping season, not just Small Business Saturday.

Roller said people who patronize small specialty stores like Nambé receive one-on-one attention from staff, including gift wrapping and shipping. “We have a great base of local repeat customers,” she said,  adding that many of them — the locals as well as visitors — shop at  Nambé on a year-round basis. One of the busiest times for the business is the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in October.

Credit card company American Express created Small Business Saturday eight years ago for the day after Black Friday. Last year, some 112 million consumers reported shopping at independently owned businesses on Small Business Saturday, up from 95 million the year prior. Data from American Express and the National Federation of Independent Business found shoppers spent more than $15 billion last year on the shopping holiday.

Minda McGonagle, director for NFIB’s 1,500-member New Mexico chapter, is an unabashed champion of the event. “I’m calling on all New Mexicans (on Saturday) to get out from behind their computers, suspend their online shopping, bypass the malls, and put some shoe leather on Main Street and some dollars in the cash registers of the small shops located there.

“The money invested in small businesses pays the highest societal dividends: Vibrant communities and jobs for your families and neighbors.”

Old Town gallery owner Mary Ann Weems echoes that call to action, saying she loves to buy local items from other Old Town merchants to send to friends and family because the stores offer a chance to find something you probably wouldn’t find anywhere else. “It’s great to come face-to-face with an artist, crafter or a local person you’re helping keep in business,” said Weems.

Many small business owners will do their biggest business of the year Saturday, and most will offer specials.

“We really ramp up on the sale items and merchandise” for Small Business Saturday said Gigi Fite, a spokeswoman for Lilly Barrack Jewelry and Gifts,  a retailer with three locations in Albuquerque and a new store in Scottsdale, Ariz. “For a lot of shoppers, we become a one-stop shop” this time of year, said Fite, which emphasizes all price points — ranging from home wares, such as “a fabulous candle assortment — perfect a for a quick little hostess gift” to unique Christmas ornaments as well as rings, bracelets, or necklaces handcrafted by 65 designers.

“Shopping small this Saturday is a big deal for family-owned businesses and their employees,” said Fite.