More of every dollar spent at small, independent businesses in your community stays in your community, contend organizers of Small Business Saturday, which is today.

More of every dollar spent at small, independent businesses in your community stays in your community, contend organizers of Small Business Saturday, which is today.

The national “shop local” movement started in 2010. Supporters encourage consumers to do some of their holiday shopping on the Saturday after Thanksgiving at their neighborhood stores.

Spending at small businesses “helps local entrepreneurs offer more jobs, which in turn invigorates the economy,” says American Express Co., one of the event’s sponsors.

Today, businesses in Hamilton and Middletown are offering special deals and giveaways to customers.

Art Avenue Custom Framing in downtown Middletown is offering a 15 percent discount on all custom frame orders taken today, said co-owner Phillip Harrison. In addition, cartoon artist Mel McIntosh will be in the Art Avenue gallery from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. doing cartoon portraits.

The shop, which opened in 2011, is located on the second floor of the building BeauVerre on the Square at 1054 Central Ave.

“There’s a group of us down here who are really trying to make a go of revitalizing downtown,” Harrison said.

“Anytime people come down and support small businesses, it’s a win-win, not only for businesses, but for the community,” he said. “When we do something good for the downtown, it’s for everybody.”

Many Hamilton merchants participating in Small Business Saturday festivities will have drawings for $25 American Express gift cards and other specials, according to the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce.

Anyone who purchases something today at The Fig Tree Florist and Gifts, 1003 Eaton Ave., Hamilton, will be registered to win the gift card, said Owner Teresa Messer. The Fig Tree’s hours today are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“If (consumers) don’t support small businesses, our city’s gone,” Messer said. “If you don’t shop these small businesses, it’s going to be taken over” by big box retailers.

“There’s just nothing like personalized customer service and if you get an arrangement from me, it’s me or one of my designers who have a name, not a number,” she said. “I take full credit or full blame for what leaves here.”

The November-December holiday shopping season can represent as much as 20 to 40 percent of annual sales for some retailers, according to the trade group National Retail Federation.

The retail federation is forecasting holiday season sales of $602.1 billion, an increase of 3.9 percent over 2012’s sales growth. Last year, holiday sales increased 3.5 percent to $579.5 billion.

Small Business Saturday efforts captured an estimated $5.5 billion worth of sales in 2012, according to a study done for American Express and National Federation of Independent Business.

As more major retailers than ever opened on Thanksgiving Day, the usual frenzy of Black Friday morning shopping was replaced by a calm, steady flow of shoppers and ample parking spaces at local shopping centers Bridgewater Falls in Fairfield Twp. and Cincinnati Premium Outlets in Monroe.

The shopping centers’ anchor stores, including Best Buy, Target and Nike opened beginning at 8 p.m. Thursday.

“Last night was definitely busier than it was this morning, but we’ve had a steady flow since 6, 7 o’clock this morning,” said Ashley Martin, spokeswoman for Bridgewater Falls, on Friday. “I did notice the stores, right before they opened, (that) was the busiest time for most of them.”

Shoppers began lining up for deals at 5 p.m. Thursday outside Nike, Coach, Banana Republic and other stores at the outdoor outlet mall, said Alaina Norbeck, director of marketing and business development for Cincinnati Premium Outlets.

The outlets’ shuttle service Thursday night to off-site parking gave way to empty spaces in the parking lot by 10 a.m. Friday morning.

Black Friday is “the first day that I usually start my shopping,” said Angela Curry of Fairfield Twp.

After scoring a deal on a new 50-inch television Thursday night, Susan Ludwig was clothes shopping at the outlets in Monroe Friday morning with her son Jeff Ludwig.

“I probably do half” my shopping on Friday, Ludwig said, letting her children pick out the clothes they want. “The other half is still a surprise” for Christmas.

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