Shoppers take to the Third Street Promenade during last year's Black Friday. (Photo by Daniel Archuleta)
Shoppers take to the Third Street Promenade during last year’s Black Friday. (Photo by Daniel Archuleta)

CITYWIDE — Across the country, people are gearing up for the holiday weekend.

The stretch pants with elastic waists are prepped and ready for action. Comfortable shoes stand ready by the closet. Alarms are set.

It is almost Black Friday. And Small Business Saturday. Don’t forget Cyber Monday. Some stores even begin their sales on Thanksgiving, for those awake enough to make it to their cars after pie and a digestif.

Sunday, as far as we know, is still a day of rest.

Typically considered America’s busiest shopping time of the year, national brands, big box stores and online retailers look poised to cash in on the 147 million shoppers that the National Retail Federation anticipates will hit the stores in the coming days.

“Doorbusters” can begin as early as midnight on Friday. The news media lies in wait, ready to report on people trampled by their competitors on the way into stores or pepper spray attacks like one seen over an XBox 360 last year.

Not in Santa Monica.

Shoppers stood in relatively short lines to get into big-name stores on the Third Street Promenade last year, but this journalist’s early-morning jaunt turned up none of the competitive spirit reported in the malls a few miles away, just sore feet and a smattering of early risers trying to cash in.

Although chains opened their doors at 6 a.m., several hours earlier than the regular season, not even the bathrooms to the local mall were unlocked, making commodes a hotter commodity than Coach.

This year, a handful of retailers will be open as early as 5 a.m., according to a release from Santa Monica Place.

Black Friday really isn’t Santa Monica’s thing, said Jennifer Taylor, chairperson of City Hall’s Buy Local campaign.

“I think it’s the next day that’s a bigger benefit to us,” Taylor said.

Small Business Saturday, the second in the triad, is a recent phenomenon.

Similar to Valentine’s Day, which many deride as a self-serving creation of the greeting card industry, Small Business Saturday was the brainchild of credit card company American Express.

“We talked to a lot of small business owners. The biggest need coming out of the recession was more customers. We wanted to try to find a way to help,” said Scott Krugman, a spokesperson for American Express.

The post-Thanksgiving Saturday became immortalized as a shopping day in November 2010, and it has grown.

According to the National Federation for Independent Businesses, 44 percent of shoppers turned out in 2010 and 67 percent went shopping that Saturday in 2011.

It’s a benefit to small businesses that don’t have the marketing budget of big retailers because, if they accept American Express, they get a special spot on the company’s website, Krugman said.

“That’s why we’re so committed to Small Business Saturday,” he said. “They don’t have to create the promotional window. We’ve created it for them.”

The company even provides a bit of cash incentive for customers. It’s promised a $25 statement credit to those who spend more than $25 at an American Express-accepting small business, although those that want to cash in on the deal must register their cards in advance, and supplies are limited.

Although there are a number of Santa Monica businesses that show up on the American Express website, relatively few seem to be planning big for the weekend.

A query to the Main Street Business Improvement Association turned up a few names, some of whom seemed to be finding out about their supposed sales for the first time when they received the confirmation call.

Some stores on Montana Avenue with a handful of outlets like Francesca’s Collections or Anat B. had sales planned, and others went along for the ride.

“Everyone else is,” said a shop owner who wished to remain nameless.

As it turns out, Santa Monica merchants, much like the rest of the city, aim to put their own stamp on holiday consumerism.

Dec. 7 and 8 have turned into the city’s own shopping weekend, with Montana Avenue’s Holiday Walk on the Friday followed by the Pico Holiday Art Hop the day after.

That festive affair is a big time for the 10 Women Gallery on Montana Avenue, a co-op of 26 female artists that opened on the avenue in time for the 2011 event.

It’s difficult for the co-op to run sales and promotions because each artist determines the price of their work, said Kathy Black, one of the members.

That makes the Holiday Walk an ideal time for the store as people crowd onto Montana Avenue for the atmosphere and community, not the perilously deep discounts.

They were shocked by the turnout in 2011, said Betsy Weston, another member of the co-op.

“We were overwhelmed by what went on. It’s a great way to promote small business,” she said.

When the party ends on Montana Avenue, it picks up again the next day across town.

The Pico Improvement Organization, a coalition of businesses aiming to promote the boulevard, is focused on its own “small business Saturday,” said Robert Kronovet, a member of the board.

The organization has its eyes firmly set on its signature event, the fourth annual Pico Holiday Art Hop planned for Dec. 8.

Otherwise …

“Pico is open, the merchants are busy, there’s a lot of dining going on right now and realtors are booming,” Kronovet, ever the business cheerleader, chorused.


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