Some might argue that bigger is better but in the South End, where boutique businesses, specialty shops and quaint culinary cafes occupy tight spaces in one of Boston’s priciest neighborhoods - proprietors have united to inspire area residents and curious day trippers to “choose small, shop local” this holiday season.
Each year on the Friday after Thanksgiving, early bird shoppers flock to crowded malls for Black Friday incentives, pre-dawn sales and flashy gimmicks. The Black Friday big box retailers are able to lower their prices and offer outrageous deals while remaining profitable - something small businesses, like those in the South End, simply cannot do. This year, more shoppers visited stores on Black Friday; however, sales were down about 3 percent from last year. Away from the mall and in communities across the country, Small Business Saturday took place the day after Black Friday. Small Business Saturday has become “part of the holiday shopping tradition” within four short years, according to Susan Sobbott, president of American Express OPEN. The 2013 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey released this week indicates consumers aware of the one-day push to support homegrown retailers and artisans spent $5.7 billion in 2013 with independent merchants, compared to $5.5 billion in 2012. Awareness of Small Business Saturday increased from 67 percent in 2012 to 71 percent this year.
So how does the local private sector take on big business? Diverting consumer traffic from one-stop shopping malls with convenient parking and endless chain stores takes creative ingenuity. Independent businesses, like those in The South End Business Alliance (SEBA), are impressing consumers today by creating engaging campaigns that attract shoppers to stores and visitors to restaurants by offering intimate “experiences”.
SEBA is a network of more than 60 bars, restaurants and retail shops in one of Boston’s most sought after communities. Founded in 1978 to help business owners strengthen local commerce and raise the profile of a fantastic, eclectic urban setting, SEBA promotes the stylish storefronts, one-of-a-kind wares, incredible dining experiences, cultural diversity and rich Boston architecture that the South End is known for. SEBA’s Board of Directors, made up of vested business owners and longtime South End employees, takes great pride in their historic corner of the world, its artisanal offerings and the collaborative initiatives that have made the South End such an attractive place to live, work, visit, shop and dine.
To retain existing customers and entice those in Boston to veer away from Copley Square, Newbury Street or the nearby theatre district - South End business owners have staged two holiday initiatives sure to showcase the neighborhood’s unique flavor, iconic brownstones and warm holiday spirit. First up is the 1st Annual Cookie Festival on Saturday, December 7. At 11:00am, 1:00pm and 3:00pm, participants will take a 90-minute guided tour of six locations. At each stop, a limited edition confection will be offered to registered guests and time will be allotted to peruse specialty items and rare finds. Tours cost $20 per person with a portion of the proceeds going to the Boston Center for the Arts. The 1st Annual Cookie Festival is the perfect way to get in the mood for the holidays. Cap the day off with a walk along bustling South End streets, the tree lighting at the Boston Center for the Arts Plaza at 4:00pm and a delicious meal with friends at one of the neighborhood’s renowned eateries. To purchase tickets, visit http://www.destinationsouthend.com/ . SEBA will also host the 5th Annual South End Holiday Stroll on Wednesday, December 11 from 4:00p.m – 8:00p.m. For one night only, shoppers will receive a discount of 15%-20% from participating South End retailers. The Stroll requires no tickets, parking is free, and a shuttle bus will transport shoppers from nearby parking to the neighborhood’s independent shops and restaurants. Celebrate the holidays in the city, enjoying the charm and camaraderie of the historic South End – and help support small businesses in the process.