DULUTH – Local businesses were robbed by Jack Frost this weekend after the blizzard forced many stores to close and kept customers at home during Small Business Saturday.
The local follow-up to Black Friday already fell on the latest possible date it could, adding a slow start to a short holiday shopping season.
"When you're a small business you're really reliant on every single moment you can have the doors open, and we lost two of the busiest days of the holiday season," said Duluth Pack CEO Tom Sega, whose Canal Park store closed Saturday and Sunday. "You can't really make up sales that are lost like that."
In West Duluth, Zenith Bookstore missed out on what has been their biggest sales day of the year.
"It's a big hit," said owner Bob Dobrow. "Independent bookstores are very dependent on the holiday months."
Now comes the true test of brand loyalty as local retailers push customers to their online stores or back into their shops another time.
"You hope and pray customers that couldn't make it down the last two days still come down and don't just revert to, 'Well, we'll just go elsewhere,' " Sega said.
The Greater Downtown Council is rallying stores and shoppers to give Small Business Saturday another try this weekend to help make up for the short time between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year.
"We're not going to let Mother Nature prevent us from celebrating," said the group's president, Kristi Stokes.
This weekend will also play host to the Duluth Winter Village, a vast collection of makers and small businesses that set up on the Glensheen Mansion estate Saturday and Sunday.
Some businesses will have promotions and sales going on through the week, such as Liila Boutique in Lincoln Park.
"People were wired to go out for Small Business Saturday, and since they weren't able to do that we wanted to catch them when we could," said owner Amanda Rolfe.
Nationwide, shoppers spent $19.6 billion at retailers and restaurants for the 10th annual Small Business Saturday, according to American Express.
But shopping local shouldn't end with one promotional day, says the National Federation of Independent Business.
"It's important to focus yearlong on generating strong community spirit for locally owned businesses," spokeswoman Emily Carlson said. "That said, Duluth's promotion of a 'second' Small Business Saturday is fantastic and something other cities should replicate."
Emily Ekstrom, owner of Hucklebeary downtown, hosted her store's two-year anniversary party Saturday morning despite the impending storm. It was, for most of the day, a success.
"Then the traffic died down, the snow picked up and we lost power at 3:30 p.m.," she said.
Ekstrom opened the store Monday and will again Tuesday afternoon, normally off days, to take advantage of an extended #smallbizhop promotion. From there, it's business as usual — getting people to shop at her store.
"Let's think about shopping small not just on that particular day, but all week long, all month long, all year long," she said. "It doesn't have to be just that one day."