Eoghan Holdahl—Staff Writer
The empty halls of Dordt University testify that roughly 1,300 of Sioux Center’s shoppers have gone and will not return until after the holiday shopping season has passed. For local businesses in town fighting to outlast a pandemic, this occurrence spells doom. On November 25, the US Department of Commerce reached out to the nation’s consumers, asking for their support of small businesses on Small Business Saturday.
“Whether it is in-person or online, take time this Saturday, November 28 to shop at your local small business,” the Department of Commerce said in a statement.
The department’s encouragement of in-person shopping is rare at a time when pleas and demands to stay home are pouring forth from nearly every official outlet in the country. Small Business Saturday has existed for the past 10 years, but businesses this year have used it as a call for in-store customers to once again browse the aisles of local stores or look beyond Amazon during online shopping.
“We felt like Saturday was a very good day for the mall,” Dean Gabhart, the manager of the Centre Mall, said recently. “Most of our stores that I’ve talked to have been very pleased with the turnout on Saturday here.”
Gabhart was pleased to see many of the mall’s stores participate in the event and use the Saturday to promote their business. Another part of the success of Small Business Saturday is also due to a promotional event put on by the Chamber of Commerce, who sold roughly $100,000 in “Chamber Bucks” at a 15 percent discount rate.
Chamber Bucks are gift certificates that can be redeemed at any Sioux Center business that is a member of the Chamber. Among the Platinum supporters of the 15 percent discount are American State Bank, Walmart, and Interstates.
Kristi Segar, Executive Assistant at Interstates, offered her company’s opinion on the matter.
“We believe that the Chamber Bucks program is a tangible way to encourage people who live in Sioux Center to shop locally,” Segar said. “As we all know, dollars spent locally have a direct impact on the economy in our community.”
The Chamber Bucks impact, while felt at the mall, did not fully make up for the students who usually sit hunched over their laptops at Butler’s Café or roam the aisles at Walmart.
When asked about Saturday, Paul Albert, owner of Butler’s, said business was slower than usual.
“I think that’s because we’ve started to lose some of the Dordt students,” Albert said. “They probably make up thirty percent of my business.”
As the holidays approach, 30 million small businesses are hoping for a shopping season that will bring new life to a business sector that carries the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis