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Local businesses hope shoppers will Occupy Main Street

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Area retailers look to residents to 'Shop Small'.

By MITCH TRAPHAGEN

RUSKIN — The Occupy Wall Street movement has swept across the nation, including in both Tampa and St. Petersburg, with few stated goals but a commonly repeated theme of protest regarding how most Americans are left out of the political and business opportunities afforded to the largest and most wealthy entities. Whether in agreement or not with the occupy movement, this year’s Thanksgiving weekend, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, was for many Americans an effort to occupy Main Street, focusing on shopping at small and local businesses, with the idea of keeping money in the local economy.

Shoppertrak, a service that tracks traffic at shopping malls and other retail locations has declared this year’s Black Friday as one for the record books with an estimated $11.4 billion in one-day sales, a 6.6 percent increase over last year. Black Friday was followed by Small Business Saturday, an event kicked off last year by American Express. The credit card company offered customers a $25 credit for registering on their Facebook page and then making a purchase from a participating small business.

The Small Business Administration generally defines a small business as one with fewer than 500 employees. Based on that criterion, small businesses represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms, employ half of all private sector employees, and pay 44 percent of the total U.S. private payroll. Perhaps more importantly, small businesses have generated 65 percent of all new jobs over the past 17 years.

The American Express Small Business Saturday included numerous small, local businesses ranging from the Ybor Grille to locally owned Ace Hardware stores to Southeast Windows and Glass. The American Express Facebook Page offers the ability to search for and “Like” local, small businesses, encouraging visitors to Shop Small to support neighborhood businesses.

“For the first time, I thought about it this year,” said one Ruskin shopper over the weekend. “I considered going to a big store for my purchases but decided to go to the locally-owned store. I wanted to keep my money here.”
With the Christmas shopping just beginning, dozens of South Hillsborough businesses hope other shoppers will feel the same way.

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