Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerKeeping cool: “We’re not Target

Black Friday doesn’t benefit most local merchants, survey finds

As big-box merchants prepare to kick off the holiday season with Black Friday shopping deals, small businesses are also preparing for the weekend — but many say it’s not particularly beneficial to their operations.
Black Friday does not play a role in the bottom line of some 75 percent of small businesses nationwide, according to a recent report conducted by Braun Research and released by Bank of America.

Fewer than 1 percent of small businesses said that they wouldn’t be in business without Black Friday, according to the study.

In San Francisco, small businesses do plan sales, but many don’t plan to open at midnight or slash prices dramatically to bring in traffic and sell more products.

“We’re not Target and we’re not trying to be,” said Donna O’Leary, co-owner of Ambiance, a women’s clothing store with locations in Cow Hollow, Noe Valley, the Haight and the Inner Sunset. “We’re not offering major deals, or opening at midnight and get all your toys for Christmas, but we do offer sales and deals.”

O’Leary said holding a sale after Thanksgiving is “Retail 101” because it brings in customers to kick off the holiday season, even though sales will not be at the scale of those in some big-box stores.

But this weekend’s sales aren’t essential to her store.

“It’s not make or break,” she said. “Doing well in Christmas is not going to kill me. San Francisco is very hot and cold over Thanksgiving sales. You can have a tremendous year or a lousy year, but you never know what it’s going to be from one year to the next.”

Fillmore Merchants Association President Thomas Reynolds said his district’s shops cater more to neighborhood residents and isn’t attempting to compete with big-box stores.

“Neighborhood shopping is just a different thing,” he said. “Our approach is to build a neighborhood that people want to live in and one people will want to visit.”

At Ambassador Toys in the Embarcadero Center, store manager Irina Turukina said it’s also a matter of not being able to slash prices on merchandise.

“We just don’t do it,” she said. “We’re a small business, we can’t afford to have big promotions. We do have a steady clientele, Monday through Friday”

This year, many big-box stores are even changing their traditions for Black Friday. Some are opening on Thanksgiving to give shoppers an earlier opportunity to grab deals, while others plan to open after midnight for Black Friday bargains.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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