Get Gephardt: How much are Utah’s small businesses relying on holiday shopping?

Nov 22, 2023, 10:51 PM | Updated: 10:54 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Tutoring Toy has become a staple in Foothill Village in its 35 years of business.

“The lights are on, the doors are unlocked, and we are better off than a lot of people,” said owner Bill Sartain.

Many folks in his line of business are still trying to claw their way back from the pandemic.

“January through September, the toy business is dependent on birthday parties,” Sartain said. “People stopped having birthday parties. Stopped having gatherings.”

But with the year wrapping up, the annual reason for optimism is nearly here. And despite the growing competition from big box stores and online retailers, Santa-season is a winner.

“I went back and I looked at the week, specifically the week of the Black Friday and we’ve been going up every year since 2015,” said Sartain.

Holiday season is important for small businesses

Christmas sales are make-or-break for many retailers. New data shared with the KSL Investigators by marketing services firm Constant Contact shows half of all small businesses earn at least a quarter of their annual sales during the holiday season alone.

“Just really a critical time for small businesses right now,” said Constant Contact’s direct of small business success, Dave Charest.

He says the holidays are also a major opportunity for small businesses to attract new customers who’ll likely get a different experience than they would at a large, national retailer.

“Usually, you’ll find products or things that are a little bit more unique and something that you wouldn’t find in a big box store,” he said.

People who tend to brush off ads most of the year are more open to being courted by a Main Street retailer when shopping for that unique gift.

“The key here is to really think about how do you stay in contact with your customers on a consistent basis beyond the holidays,” said Charest.

Bread and butter

Back at Tutoring Toy, Black Friday is huge. But Sartain says their largest sales day ever happened last year, just a few days before Christmas. I saw first-hand just how busy they were.

“So, procrastinators are your bread and butter?” I asked Sartain.

“Guys like you,” he responded.

Another reason to consider shopping local is taxes. Online retailers and stores not based in Utah don’t contribute as much to tax revenues as local retailers. The net effect: shopping small could help keep your taxes lower.

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Get Gephardt: How much are Utah’s small businesses relying on holiday shopping?