Shopapalooza epitomizes Small Business Saturday • St Pete Catalyst
After the Thanksgiving holidays, and between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, comes a more personal shopping holiday vital to small businesses and local economies – Small Business Saturday.
St. Petersburg’s Shopapalooza, now in its 12e year, will spotlight approximately 365 local small businesses and creators when it returns to Vinoy Park this weekend. Event organizer Ester Venouziou said the festival is a way for people to make sure their money stays in the community.
A study by American Express showed that 68 cents of every dollar spent in a small business stays in the community and creates an additional 48 cents in the area’s financial activity through the purchase of goods and services by employees and the owners. The study also found that if every Gen Z and Millennial shopper spent $10 this Saturday on small businesses, it would generate $2 billion in local economic activity.
Conversely, Venouziou said only 30 cents of every dollar spent at business outlets is returned to the community.
“It’s a staggering number,” she said. “It allows the money to flow locally, so it’s a bigger impact. It won’t just end up being $10 – it’s $10 that recirculates again because small businesses are more likely to spend it on other local businesses.
Venouziou founded LocalShops1, a business directory that hosts Shopapalooza every Thanksgiving weekend. She said some brick-and-mortar business owners said they depended on the expansive festival to hold out until the end of the year.
As the country emerged from the pandemic, Venouziou said many of its effects linger. She said staffing issues remained and spending had climbed in line with historic inflation. In addition to significantly higher costs for ingredients and materials, she noted that skyrocketing rents are also affecting small businesses.
Not only are creators and local businesses facing price hikes for physical locations, Venouziou explained, but many landlords are also renting out their homes.
“So they are affected both ways,” she added. “And they don’t want to raise their prices too much. In general, they had to kind of suck and have a smaller profit margin on a lot of items.
However, there are reasons for optimism. Venouziou said Shopapalooza continues to grow and she expects this weekend’s festival to be “the biggest ever.”
While there’s no good way to tell how many people are attending the free event, she said police tasked with closing off surrounding downtown streets told her her best estimate was to around 30,000 last year.
And, for the first time, attendees can now sip and shop as beer and wine are permitted throughout the venue. Venouziou believes this will help increase crowds and that all proceeds from alcohol sales will go to the local non-profit Jump for Kids.
Elizabeth Rutledge, chief marketing officer of American Express, said in a statement that consumers spent more than $23 billion shopping locally on Saturdays last year for small businesses, “and we want to top that in 2022. “.
Buying locally, Venouziou explained, mitigates ongoing supply chain disruptions. She said offering items in small batches alleviates the need to purchase needed supplies in bulk from out of the region or overseas.
Additionally, she said the uniqueness of the items means creators can easily replace out-of-stock materials. Venouziou said many sellers saw record sales last year, and they are hoping for a similar response with the pandemic in the rearview mirror.
“They feel like it’s kind of their baby too,” she said. “They started out as buyers when they were in high school or college, and now they have their own business.”
In addition to merchandise, Venouziou noted that Shopapalooza also offers food, drink and entertainment options. Mastry’s Brewing Co., 3 Daughters Brewing, Mermosa Wines and Great Bay Distributors will supply beer and wine. The website lists 40 other vendors in four strategically placed areas in the waterfront park.
Musical artists and comedians take the stage from 11 a.m. on both days, and activity and kids’ zones — which offer free photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus — also operate all weekend. Jump For Kids isn’t the only nonprofit to benefit from the festival, as Venouziou plans to give the St. Pete Youth Farm a $10,000 donation after the event.
Shopapalooza is co-sponsored by the City of St. Petersburg, and Venouziou expressed his gratitude to the Department of Parks and Recreation for supporting the festival since its inception. The event takes place Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Vinoy Park, 701 Bayshore Dr. NE. Venouziou noted that a free cart transports customers to and from the Sundial parking lot.
“But people need to remember to shop locally all year round,” she said. “It’s not just a weekend.”
For more information on Shopapalooza, visit the website here.