Independently owned local businesses in Wisconsin are gearing up for Small Business Saturday on Nov. 24.

The event, created in 2009, was envisioned by American Express as a way to provide a counterweight to Black Friday, when malls and large-scale retailers entice shoppers with deep discounts and extended hours. Small Business Saturday is focused on getting shoppers out to downtowns and local shopping districts, and is a welcomed kick-start to the holiday season for these mom-and-pop shops.

“Small Business Saturday is a great tool for communities to showcase unique local offerings,” said WEDC Downtown Development Account Manager Errin Welty. “It has grown to become a day when people explore local retailers and spend time with family and friends.”

In Wisconsin, the small businesses in the Main Street and Connect Communities have a strong impact on their communities all year long, not only in terms of the economic impact but also diversity of ownership and business type. For example, 39 percent of these businesses are women-owned and managed, while 26 percent fall into the categories of specialty shops, salons, law firms, real estate firms, restaurants and nonprofits.

They also are strong traffic generators: in Wisconsin Main Street communities, downtown district businesses account for 14 percent of total retail sales and 22 percent of restaurant sales, Welty said.

“Since 90 percent of the businesses in our downtown districts are locally owned, this emphasis is a huge opportunity for them to introduce their goods and services to the community and make a personal connection,” Welty said. “Often locals are unaware of the wide variety of business offerings that are available, and any events that encourage them to visit new businesses are great to retain local business in the community.”

According to Welty, the average amount spent per shopper in Wisconsin on Small Business Saturday is $104, with 60 percent of that going to retailers and the remainder split between restaurant and service businesses. In communities with collective seasonal shopping incentive programs  that extend from Thanksgiving through Christmas, that single day represented between 8 and 12 percent of all spending for the season.

Small Business Saturday highlights the ongoing work of Wisconsin’s Main Street and Connect Communities programs, which support local entrepreneurial efforts. Last year, more than 40 communities from these two programs hosted activities and promotions to lure shoppers to their downtown businesses.

Small Business Saturday is a major event for Wisconsin’s downtown communities, bringing existing shoppers back for an additional visit at the start of the holiday shopping season and introducing new visitors to what downtown merchants offer.