By Dan Cherry Journal Staff Writer

While big box companies will focus on Black Friday sales on November 27th, most small businesses will be focusing on support on Small Business Saturday on November 28th.

Marketing efforts are subdued from previous years, advertising officials said, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The numbers reported have increased over the past few weeks, prompting health officials to encourage people to stay home if possible and find more contactless ways to support businesses in the area.

Some retailers began selling Black Friday in mid-October to coincide with Amazon’s “Prime Day”. Since then there has been a rush of discounts.

Although smaller stores tend to focus on the small business Saturday tradition, some still advertise their wares on Black Friday.

Jon Vincent, consumer analyst at EarlyBlackFriday.com, told Sturgis Journal that the 2020 shopping model has changed from 2019.

“The only big difference this year from previous years is that most stores won’t be open on Thanksgiving. We’ve seen an increase over the past 10 years,” said Vincent. “All major stores are closed on Thanksgiving due to the pandemic, and shoppers are encouraged to shop online and have items shipped.”

Bigger stores last year would have “door opener” deals like electronics that customers would bring into stores to pick up the items and walk across the floor to see other deals, Vincent said.

“This year a lot of stores are mostly online,” he said. “Retailers take (COVID-19) very seriously.”

Shops will open on Black Friday and even then the owners plan to impose severe restrictions on those who enter.

“From masks to social distancing, there will likely be strict enforcement,” Vincent said.

Although many big box stores can afford to close on Thanksgiving Day and impose COVID-19 restrictions, he said, “Small businesses are in trouble; they can’t weather the storms like big box stores.”

The problem doesn’t just affect Sturgis, Centerville, Grateiche, Colon, Constantine, Mendon, Three Rivers, and White Pigeon. Vincent said the desire to trade safely in the face of the ongoing pandemic he sees nationally.

“Sales were made on Black Friday during the month of November to help spread the crowd and not overwhelm distribution centers,” he said.

Officials from the Sturgis Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Development Agency said the state had given little in terms of marketing this year.

Sigrist’s Furniture in Sturgis is a local store that is planning a series of sales in the coming weeks.

“We’re doing Black Friday sales and doing them through Christmas for the holiday season,” the company told the Journal. “The furniture industry is changing because companies no longer have what they normally have in stock. Order times are three times faster than normal and many companies are struggling to source materials.”

The shipping industry is also facing challenges, said representatives from Sigrist. According to the long-time Sturgis store, around 150 pieces are expected to arrive in December in the hope of a busy Christmas season.

Tricia Meyer, interim executive director of the board of directors of the Three Rivers Downtown Development Authority, said that Small Business Saturday at Three Rivers is progressing as planned, although, like many communities, business owners are hoping for a successful weekend shopping while navigating the COVID. 19 Pandemic Restrictions and Limitations.

In Three Rivers, “Christmas Around Town” will be the theme for Black Friday and Small Business Saturday. On Friday at 6 p.m., the community will celebrate virtually with a tree lighting ceremony live via the DDA Facebook page, and from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. the Small Business Saturday will be celebrated.

Meyer said some attractions will be postponed, such as a Santa Claus performance, carriage rides, and balloon art.

“We usually have at least 500, 600 people visiting Santa Claus,” Meyer said. “We hope the (COVID-19) numbers will go down, and if it will do so by December 8th,” when the current restrictions from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services are lifted.

The “Storybook Stroll” in downtown Three Rivers takes place. The maps will be posted online so that participants can take part in the self-guided tour.

There will also be make-and-take handicrafts at the business points in the city center, and you can shop for small business in the city center on Saturdays.

All events and activities will take place with social distancing and COVID-19 guidelines, Meyer said.