After the Thanksgiving festivities and wedged between Black Friday and Cyber Monday comes a more personal shopping holiday that’s critical to small businesses and the local economy – Small Business Saturday.
St. Petersburg’s Shopapalooza, now in its 12th yearth year, will highlight around 365 small businesses and creators from the area when it returns to Vinoy Park this weekend. Event organizer Ester Venouziou said the festival is a way for people to ensure their money stays in the community.
A study by American Express showed that for every dollar spent in a small business, 68 cents stays in the community and another 48 cents of financial activity in the area comes from employee and owner purchases of goods and services. The study also found that if every Gen Z and Millennial shopper spent $10 this Small Business Saturday, it would generate $2 billion in local economic activity.
Conversely, Venouziou said only 30 cents of every dollar spent at corporate outlets goes back to the community.
“It’s an amazing number,” she said. “It keeps the money flowing locally, so it has a bigger impact. In the end, it won’t just be $10 — it’s $10 being put back into circulation because small businesses are more likely to spend it on other local businesses.”
Venouziou founded LocalShops1, a business directory that hosts Shopapalooza every Thanksgiving weekend. She shared that some brick and mortar business owners have expressed that they depend on the extended festival to make it through the end of the year.
While the country has emerged from the pandemic, Venouziou said many of its effects linger. She said staffing issues remain and spending has skyrocketed in tandem with historical inflation. In addition to significantly higher costs for ingredients and materials, she found that skyrocketing rents are also affecting small businesses.
Not only are local creators and businesses enduring price hikes for physical locations, Venouziou explained, but many homeowners are also renting out their homes.
“So you get hit both ways,” she added. “And they don’t want to raise their prices too much. In general, they’ve had to suck it up somehow and have a lower profit margin on a lot of items.”
However, there are reasons for optimism. Venouziou said Shopapalooza continues to grow and she expects this weekend’s festival to be “the biggest ever”.
Although there’s no good way to tell how many people are attending the free event, she revealed that the police in charge of closing down surrounding downtown streets told her their best estimate was about 30,000 last year visited people.
And for the first time, attendees can now sip and shop as beer and wine are allowed throughout the venue. Venouziou believes this will help drive crowds, and all proceeds from alcohol sales go to local non-profit organization Jump for Kids.
Elizabeth Rutledge, American Express’ chief marketing officer, said in a press release that consumers spent over $23 billion on Small Business Saturday shopping locally last year, “and we aim to top that in 2022.”
Buying local, Venouziou explained, mitigates ongoing supply chain disruptions. She said offering items in small batches reduces the need to buy necessary supplies in bulk from outside the region or overseas.
Additionally, she said the uniqueness of the items means the creators can easily substitute materials that are out of stock. Venouziou shared that many vendors saw record sales last year and are hoping for a similar response with the pandemic in the rearview mirror.
“They feel like it’s a little bit of their baby too,” she said. “They started out as buyers when they were in high school or college and now they have their own business.”
In addition to goods, Shopapalooza also offers food, drinks and entertainment options, according to Venouziou. Mastry’s Brewing Co., 3 Daughters Brewing, Mermosa Wines and Great Bay Distributors will supply beer and wine. The website lists 40 other vendors in four zones strategically placed across Waterfront Park.
Musical artists and comedians take the stage from 11am on both days, and the activity and kids zones – which offer free photos with Santa and Mrs Claus – also run throughout the weekend. Jump For Kids isn’t the only charitable organization to benefit from the festival, as Venouziou expects to make a $10,000 donation to St. Pete Youth Farm after the event.
Shopapalooza is co-sponsored by the City of St. Petersburg, and Venouziou thanked the Parks and Recreation Department for supporting the festival from the start. The event will be held Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at Vinoy Park at 701 Bayshore Dr. NE instead. Venouziou noted that a free trolley transports guests to and from the Sundial parking garage.
“But people have to remember to shop locally year-round,” she said. “It’s not just about a weekend.”
More information about Shopapalooza can be found here.