While Des Moines metro shop owners hope to greet throngs of customers on Small Business Saturday this weekend, some say they’re even happier to see consumers embracing shopping local year-round.
Many central Iowa consumers began prioritizing local shopping to help neighborhood businesses survive the pandemic, but the habit has stuck, small business owners said.
“It hit most people that these stores aren’t going to be able to survive unless we can find some way to show them some support,” said Kelsey Mihalovich, owner of Hinge on 5th, a women’s boutique in Valley Junction that sells apparel and home décor.
Iowans’ increased focus on shopping local this holiday season was borne out by results of a new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll conducted Nov. 7-10. In this second holiday season since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, 55% of Iowans say they’re patronizing local stores more for their shopping than in past holiday seasons.
Many local stores closed in spring 2020 for several weeks or months as the pandemic set in. Small Business Saturday moved online due to pandemic-related restrictions as did much of holiday shopping in general. Local holiday markets and events that attract shoppers were also canceled, removing foot traffic and overall visibility and attention for small businesses.
The organizers of Market Day, a craft fair and Des Moines tradition since 2009, predating the advent of Small Business Saturday, canceled the event again this year. But business owners interviewed by the Des Moines Register are hopeful for a busy day.
Mihalovich closed Hinge on 5th at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, but noticed a push in sales from customers after she slowly reopened the boutique in May 2020. The increase in traffic continued as the pandemic stretched into its second year, she said, likely driven from shifting consumer habits along with a rapid increase in development in Historic Valley Junction.
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“There’s a lot of money that is being spent on property investment down there,” Mihalovich said. “It seems like it’s a pretty general consensus that a lot of the other [Valley Junction] business owners were saying this was going to be one of their best years ever, and they really felt like things were hopping down the street.”
Steve Frevert, executive director of the Historic Valley Junction Foundation, also said most of the 160 independently owned shops, service businesses and restaurants in the Valley Junction district have seen a strong year for sales.
Frevert said that while support for small businesses and a focus on shopping locally have steadily increased since American Express introduced Small Business Saturday in 2010, the pandemic “accelerated that,” making shoppers more thoughtful on where and how they spend their money.
“In a way, every day is Small Business Saturday in Valley Junction,” Frevert said. “One of the things that we’ve been pushing is to shop sooner this year, partly in order to spread people out, but partly because of supply-chain issues. So if you see something you think you might want, don’t wait until December to buy it; buy it now.”
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Over in the East Village, Angela Poldberg, owner of Marnē, a sustainable women’s boutique that offers vegan and Fairtrade products, said shopping local offers a good way to avoid long lines at national retailers or a shortage of gifts due to disruptions in global supply chains.
While Poldberg thinks that the pandemic heightened a sense of urgency to shop local, that feeling has tapered off, but her customers are still intentional in how they’re purchasing gifts, she said.
“I hear a lot of people in the shop saying how they’re trying to shop completely local,” Poldberg said. “I feel like there’s more people than before and honestly they’re smart because if you want to get your goods, now the best way is to shop small.”
This year, the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine has ushered in near-normal gatherings, and several Small Business Saturday and holiday shopping events are planned in the Des Moines metro.
Here are some Des Moines metro events where you can shop local this year:
- Hand Crafted Holiday Market: Mainframe Studios, 900 Keosauqua Way, Des Moines, on Nov. 27 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
- Winter’s Farmers Market: Outdoors along Court Avenue on Dec. 4 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- East Village Holiday Promenade: Friday nights from 5 to 9 p.m. through Dec. 17.
- Christkindlmarket: Principal Park, 1 Line Drive, Des Moines, from 5 to 9 p.m. Dec. 2, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 3 and 4, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 5
- Jingle in the Junction: West Des Moines’ Historic Valley Junction from 5 to 9 p.m. Dec. 2, 9 and 16
- Last Call Holiday Shopping: Mainframe Studios at 900 Keosauqua Way, Des Moines, on Saturday, Dec. 18, from 1 to 5 p.m.
Hannah Rodriguez covers retail for the Register. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @byherodriguez.