Jennifer Raines and Kendra Law don’t believe in Black Friday.
At least, not in the traditional sense.
At Quirks, a gift store on Prince George Street owned by Raines and managed by Law, Black Friday goes by a different name: Sparkle Friday.
Then, on Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, Quirks and its sister gallery on North Boundary Street, The Sideshow, simply go about business as usual.
Because holiday shopping is trademarked by big box store sales, small businesses like Quirks and The Sideshow are competing by daring to do business differently than retail giants.
On Friday, Quirks opened its doors for business but did not slash price tags; instead it encouraged donating to a local charity. A portion of online proceeds also went to charity.
Quirks and The Sideshow also aren’t offering sales outside of their regular deals, instead focusing on catering to their existing clientele — both online and in-store.
“One of the luxuries we have is embracing the unique power we have as a small business, and doing what’s best for us, and what helps us provide the best experience for our guests and community,” Law said.
Doing it different
Daring to be different is an effective tactic small businesses use to compete with large retailers.
“If you have merchandise that looks just like an Amazon, by all means you’re basically competing against those kind of companies,” W&M associate professor of marketing Ron Hess said. “At some level, you need something different. You need unique merchandise. You need a unique experience that’s unlike anything you could get online.”
Quirks and The Sideshow sell edgy, handcrafted gifts and high-end art.
Small businesses that offer personalized experiences can also successfully compete, Hess said. Personalized experiences can include assisting customers find gifts for loved ones or adding “extras” like gift wrap.
Small businesses can also find success by creating a community around themselves and building a loyal customer base, Hess said. Hosting events for customers or organizing exclusive events can make community members feel like a part of the company.
“I don’t think the price issue is really why people come to you anyway,” Hess said.
Cyber Monday, but all year-long
While Quirks and The Sideshow do not partake in the traditional Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday sales hype, a strong online presence fuels business year-round.
Every day, Law and Raines spend free moments between in-store sales packaging and shipping online orders, which outpace in-store purchases by “leaps and bounds,” Law said. The pair sends out between 50 and 60 packages each day.
“Thanking (customers) for their support and taking the time to reach out to each of them personally by email, by commenting on social media, or by putting handwritten notes in shipments is one of the ways we set ourselves apart from big box stores and website giants and connect on a different level with our buyers,” Law said.
Nationwide, e-commerce made up about 28 percent of spending between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday 2017, compared to 24 percent of spending in 2016, according to a First Data report on 2017 holiday shopping habits.
The Williamsburg EDA offers a $1,500 matching grant to local businesses that are creating or enhancing e-commerce on their websites. It can be used for website design and development or improvements.
Quirks received the grant in June 2011 and used it to help redo their website in 2012. The website has undergone several updates since it first went online in 2007, Raines said.
Because Williamsburg is a tourist town, having a strong online website — featuring more than 10,000 items, Law said — allows customers from out of town to keep shopping even after they’ve gone home.
“We feel like everyday should be small business day,” Law said. “If you do not invest in the small business that enrich your community everyday, you’re bound to lose the personality that makes your town unique.”