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Small business owners hoping West Virginians will ‘Shop Small in July’

By LINDA HARRIS

The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s small business owners are hoping to see long-term gains with their first-ever “Shop Small in July” promotion.

Shop Small in July, the work of the West Virginia Small Business Development Center and the U.S. Small Business Administration’s West Virginia District Office, is a month-long campaign designed to encourage Mountain State residents to support small, local businesses in July and through the upcoming holiday shopping season.

Doug Spaulding, a WVSBDC business coach, said there are upwards of 115,000 small businesses in West Virginia, and “96 percent to 98 percent of businesses in West Virginia are small businesses.”

“If we can get our sales to increase, if we can continue this campaign, this marketing effort and get our small businesses to the forefront and show what we have here, it can only benefit the state in huge ways,” Spaulding said. “We count on a lot of large projects coming to West Virginia, like Procter & Gamble (in the Eastern Panhandle), but those are few and far between. Small business is what is going to save this state, I think, and keep this state moving forward.”

WVSBDC State Director Erika Bailey said by getting consumers to patronize small, local businesses, “we hope to spread the word and promote small businesses from all corners of the Mountain State.”

“Our local small businesses need support from our shopping dollars year-round, especially during the critical winter holiday season,” Bailey had said in a release.

“We want to encourage consumers to shop small year-round,” added SBA’s West Virginia District Director Karen Friel. “Shopping at local retailers puts more of your dollar back into your own community. More than 98 percent of employers in West Virginia are small businesses. ‘Shop Small in July’ and ‘Small Business Saturday’ are great reminders to make shopping small a regular routine.”

Spaulding, who coaches current and wanna-be small business owners in the Kanawha/Putnam county areas, said making sure West Virginians understand the importance of supporting small, locally-owned businesses is critical.

“I used to be a small business owner myself,” he said. “(Shop Small) is just about the importance of people buying locally — we are competing against larger markets, the internet, big chains…small businesses have to depend on volume, we can’t do it on prices. Our prices have to be a little lower, and we’re paying more for raw materials and resources. We have to depend on sales volume, and it’s extremely important people recognize that around the state.”

He said the summer months are traditionally “a little slow.”

“People are on vacation, they’re busy doing other things,” he said. “July is typically a slow period. We want to bring some recognition of the plight (small businesses face).”

“I don’t have figures, but just from being out and about I think (small business owners) are very encouraged, they’re seeing an uptick in sales and in people who want to purchase locally,” Spaulding said, adding the small business owners he’s working with report “things are picking up, sales are increasing, they’re seeing more traffic, more people in the streets, even in smaller towns.”

He said consumer buying patterns tend to be “habit driven.”

“If we can just get them out to visit some local shops they haven’t visited before, it may open their eyes, let them see what is available to them,” he added.

“Small businesses…bring uniqueness, they bring their talents and their skills are more evident. There are more choices if people shop locally, they can see variations, the creativeness of what’s out there. I’m very encouraged by what I’ve been seeing — hopefully, this will be a good season, especially a good Christmas season, for our retailers.”

WVSBDC is challenging the public to help promote West Virginia’s small businesses by checking-in or tagging the business while shopping using the #ShopSmallWV hashtag. They’re also asking business to call their Business Ask Me! line at 888-982-7292 to request “Support Small Business” pledge cards and other promotional materials to distribute to customers during the upcoming holiday shopping season. Customers sign the cards as a show of support for West Virginia’s small businesses.

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