• Newport businesses hopeful for big Small Business Saturday turnout

    Newport businesses hopeful for big Small Business Saturday turnout


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    Despite the recent capacity limits and extra COVID-19 safety measures, Newport County businesses are feeling optimistic about Small Business Saturday.

    “It’s always been the locals who come up and shop on that Saturday to support businesses that are owned by locals,” said Jason Carbonneau, owner of Thames Street jewelry store Jason & Co. “I think it’s going to be better than ever, mainly because after (Gov. Raimondo) announced the new restrictions … people really want to get their holiday shopping done early.

    Small Business Saturday was originally launched by American Express to help small businesses compete with Black Friday sales at big box stores. However, with the current increase in COVID-19 cases making Rhode Island tighten restrictions on businesses, Greater Newport Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Erin Donovan-Boyle was skeptical whether the event would happen this year.
     

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    “Small Business Saturday is supposed to be the counter to Black Friday for the main street businesses,” Donovan-Boyle said. “There’s not a lot of plans for Small Business Saturday around this state this year. We usually do press conferences and a stroll with the congressional delegation but of course we can’t do that this year.”

    Mark Hayward, regional director for the Rhode Island Small Business Administration, usually leads the state’s initiative. Despite restrictions, he is optimistic about this year’s effort.

    “I’m feeling the same I would feel any given year,” Hayward said. “We know there are restrictions, we know there are hurdles to overcome, we’re familiar with all that, but there are mechanisms by which people can continue to support local small businesses in many different ways.”

     

    Hayward encourages people to still go in and shop socially distanced or order out from local restaurants, as well as shop online from retailers with websites.

    Like many Thames Street businesses around him, Carbonneau is still planning to participate in Small Business Saturday by offering special Black Friday sales throughout the weekend. Although the new restrictions are not expected to impact him much, he said many retailers are worried about what might happen if the two week pause fails.

    “Unfortunately a lot of businesses in Newport will not survive another shutdown,” Carbonneau said. “I’ve had a lot of small business owners come in to see what kind of a season we had. Luckily we had an extremely strong season … but we don’t really rely on volume like restaurants and tourist shops do.”

    Nancy Marshall and her daughter Sarah Hoffman shop at Life is Good on Small Business Saturday in 2019.

    Vinyl Guru owner Kyle Torney shares Carbonneau’s optimism for Small Business Saturday, saying he expects more customers will be out hunting for bargains on that day. Located far from Thames Street, Torney said he often feels left out during Small Business Saturday as most people flock to Thames or lower Broadway businesses, and he does not offer any special promotions for the day. However, he hopes people who are already out might stop in and purchase a record for themselves.

    Over in Middletown, Island Books has participated in Small Business Saturday for years. This year, however, owner Judy Crosby said she’s concerned about promoting the event out of concern for customer safety.

    “We have to limit the number of people who come into the store,” Crosby said. “To encourage a lot of people to come together, I’m a little conflicted about it.”

    Crosby said the bookstore usually decorates the inside, puts out refreshments, conducts raffles and offers specials and discounts. Although she has yet to formulate an exact plan for this year, she said it's bound to look a little different.

    “We’ve felt so supported and loved by our community throughout all of this because business has been great and people have really been showing an outpouring of support,” Crosby said. “We’re trying to figure out a way that we can somehow support another part of the community that needs something during Small Business Saturday.”

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