Despite the COVID-19 economic recession, sales have remained steady at Unique Treasures, a funky downtown Melbourne boutique featuring eclectic hand-painted leather handbags, Betsey Johnson jewelry, Kentucky Derby hats, jackets and leggings.
Eau Gallie natives Kathi Trumeter and Barry Rehl have owned the New Haven Avenue women’s clothing store for 18 years. And they eagerly await a crush of customers on Small Business Saturday.
“The big-box stores have Black Friday. And there are people camped out — literally — waiting for that,” Trumeter said, standing at her colorful front counter as Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine’s “Conga” played over her shop’s speakers.
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“Small business is so important. Because we give back to the community,” Trumeter said.
For every $100 spent at a local business, about $68 stays within the local economy — compared with only $43 at a national chain retailer, according to a study by Civic Economics, an economic analysis firm.
“I don’t have to report profits to some corporation that might be based in another country,” Trumeter said.
Sandwiched the day after Black Friday and two days before Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday debuted in 2010 as an American Express promotion during the Great Recession.
Last year, an estimated 110 million people shopped on Small Business Saturday, recording a record-high $19.6 billion in reported spending.
But this year, the COVID-19 pandemic adds a sense of urgency for struggling mom-and-pop shops. American Express reports 46% of small business owners are counting on above-average holiday sales to remain in business in 2021.
According to an Alignable poll of 7,726 small business owners across North America, 34% said they were unable to pay full rent in October. Beauty salons, barber shops, restaurants and gyms bore the brunt of these coronavirus-related struggles.
“I think it’s more important than ever that people support small business. I think we’ve got to remember that most are owned and operated by families,” Melbourne Main Street Executive Director Kim Agee said.
“So making that extra effort to come downtown — or anywhere that you can buy from a local proprietor — will really make a significant difference in the lives of a member of your community and their family,” Agee said.
“These are the businesses that are supporting sports teams and nonprofits and things like that. And I think that after all the closures and everything, we’ve got to really start focusing on our community, and rebuilding that locally,” she said.
More: Amazon-linked developer seeks to build distribution centers in Melbourne and Cocoa
More: Hammock Landing mall owner files for bankruptcy amid COVID-19 pandemic
Last year, a record-breaking 189.6 million U.S. consumers shopped from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday, the National Retail Federation reported. That’s 14% more than the same five-day holiday stretch in 2018.
This year, during the coronavirus pandemic, 42% of holiday shoppers said they started holiday shopping earlier than usual, the NRF reported last week.
Retail sales increased 10.6% in October, compared with October 2019, the NRF reported. Online sales led those gains.
“Consumers have welcomed the longer shopping season, where many retailers have chosen to offer deals before and leading up to the traditional Thanksgiving and Black Friday doorbusters,” NRF Prosper Executive Vice President of Strategy Phil Rist said in a press release.
Buoyed by billions in record-breaking revenues, Amazon continues to disrupt America’s retail sector. Last week, FLORIDA TODAY reported that an Amazon-linked development team seeks permitting to build large warehouse-distribution facilities — with electric-van charging yards — in Melbourne and Cocoa. No official announcements have been made.
Earlier this month, the corporate owner of the Hammock Landing shopping complex in West Melbourne filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
In a court filing, CBL & Associates Properties, Inc. said more than 30 of its retail tenants nationwide have filed for bankruptcy during 2020. The company owns 107 properties totaling 66.7 million square feet of retail space across 26 states, including 65 malls and outlet centers.
In light of the pandemic, the Titusville Area Chamber of Commerce is in the midst of a 30-day “Shop Safe. Shop Early. Shop Local.” promotion. Shoppers can scan a QR code or text 30DAYS to 55678 to qualify for daily prize giveaways. For information, visit facebook.com/titusvillechamber.
Tuesday, the Cocoa Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce hosted a “Shop Local” virtual event in anticipation of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The program featured narrated video tours of the Grimaldi’s Candy Co. factory in Rockledge, the company’s retail store at The Avenue Viera, and Ready Set Game in Indian Harbour Beach.
Melissa Byron, Cocoa Beach director of marketing and economic development, also talked up The Tiny Turtle, a mom-and-pop Caribbean fusion eatery on Minutemen Causeway.
“Downtown, we have over 35 different restaurants. You can come downtown for 34 different days and have 34 different things to eat — whether you would like German, whether you would like Caribbean, whether you would like Thai, whether you would like Chinese, whether you would like Mexican,” Byron told the virtual audience.
“We have it all. You just come on down, and we’ll show you a good time in Cocoa Beach,” she said.
Small Business Saturday
Melbourne Main Street will host a candlelight shopping event from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday in downtown Melbourne.
The city Christmas tree lighting ceremony starts at 6 p.m. at Campbell Park next to the Flatiron Building, 929 E. New Haven Ave. The Indialantic Chamber Singers will perform, and entertainment across downtown includes free horse-drawn carriage rides. Santa Claus will greet children beside Matt’s Casbah.
Historic Cocoa Village Main Street will host “Shop Small Then Sip” from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Participants who buy $25 tickets receive a Cocoa Village shopping bag, map of participating merchants, and crowler of beer or bottle of wine to take home.
For more information, visit facebook.com/HistoricCocoaVillage
This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Small Business Saturday offers hope for Brevard retailers after months of COVID-19 woes