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Surveys: Small Businesses Having Banner Year in '18


While the airwaves and other media are filled with ads for Walmart, Macy’s and other mega retailers this shopping season, smaller businesses are also competing for that holiday dollar.

“Small Business Saturday” — the day after “Black Friday” and two days after Thanksgiving — was founded as an advertising campaign by American Express in 2010. Last year, Americans spent a combined $12 billion at independent retailers and restaurants.

“You get your coffee – here; you find that certain thing you were looking for – here. But actually, you get so much more,” intones an American Express commercial on Small Business Saturday. “When you shop at these small, local businesses, you support all the things that make your community great. Money spent here stays here; in the place you call your neighborhood.”

And now, some numbers a bit closer to home: 2.5 million small businesses in Florida generate more than half of the state’s $1 trillion a year economy, according to Mike Myhre, State Director of the Florida Small Business Development Center Network.

“We often hear the political-speak about how small businesses create three out of every four jobs for the U.S. economy,” said Myhre. “Here in Florida, it’s more like eight out of every 10. Small businesses — their activities and investments — support about half of [Florida’s] trillion dollar economy.”

Credit floridasbdc.org
Mike Myhre, Director of the Florida Small Business Development Center Network.

Escambia County is home to about 28,000 small businesses, with more than 14,000 in Santa Rosa.

“Obviously, the majority of those are located here in Pensacola and the Greater Pensacola area,” Myhre says. “There’s only a handful, or just a few actually, large businesses in Pensacola. And so we know our small businesses are really critical to the economic prosperity of our area, and our continued growth.”

Crunching the numbers, it appears Small Business Saturday 2018 was a resounding success. American Express reports $17.8 billion — a new record — was spent at independent retailers and restaurants in the U.S. Myhre says one rule of thumb is: the longer the holiday season, the more all retailers benefit.

“Thanksgiving actually fell a little bit earlier; they get 32 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year,” said Myhre. “Many economists for that matter [are] projecting anywhere from about four and a half to six percent increase over last year’s total sales during that period of time.”

On a recent midday at Blue Jays Bakery in downtown Pensacola, the staff is mashing up sticks of butter to make a wide selection of cookies.

“It obviously was a crazy roller-coaster of a ride; we went through a period of time where there was only two of use in the shop, says owner Justine Gudmundson-McCain. “And now we have about six [employees] I think.

Blue Jays began in McCain’s home, before moving to Palafox Market and then to the current location on Palafox Place about a year ago. Prior to that, she learned her trade while living in San Francisco.

Credit Blue Jay's Bakery via Facebook
Justine Gudmundson-McCain, owner of Blue Jay's Bakery in downtown Pensacola.

“It’s definitely, at least, lessened my load in the kitchen, which is nice,” says McCain. “And the girls do a great job; just transitioning from starting with such a small team and working out the house, to the system we’ve got going on now. It’s definitely been fun.”

One point of emphasis is that Blue Jays is not a chain. McCain says that in turn enables them to do some experimenting.

“And that’s kind of the fun part of it, that we get to decide on if we want to make something new; what that is, and spend the time to develop the recipe until it tastes exactly like the way we want it to taste.”

Along with the passion of baking, there’s also the business end of baking.

“It’s just a different level of organization at this point when you have so many more people in your kitchen and you have to make sure everybody’s on-task and everybody’s getting paid,” McCain says. “It’s just a different animal at this point, definitely bigger numbers than when we were working with at the Farmer’s Market.”

Since the holiday season can be crucial in the world of small business, do they focus their marketing strategy on this time of year?  Mike Myhre with the FSBDC says yes – and no.

“I certainly think there are many small businesses – and businesses in general – who derive a lot of their revenue during the last couple of months of the year,” says Myhre. “But no, I think small businesses that think about their customers’ needs and adapt their products to serve those needs will be successful.”

In a survey by American Express, 83 percent of respondents had a positive outlook on holiday sales this year, with more than two-thirds expecting it to exceed 2017. Roughly half planned to extend store hours, and one-third planned to hire more staff for the holidays.