Island’s small businesses seeing influx of spending in short holiday season

KAILUA-KONA — A late Thanksgiving this year means a shorter holiday shopping period for many.

Local Big Island businesses are in the midst of helping local and visiting shoppers fulfill their holiday gift lists after Thanksgiving fell a week later than usual, on Nov. 28. After a slow start to the season on Thanksgiving weekend, businesses are starting to see an increase in consumer spending.

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“The weekend right after Thanksgiving it was a little slow. But after that everything’s been picking up quite quickly, and we’re also seeing a rush of holiday traveling already,” Puna Chocolate Company co-owner Ben Vanegtern said. “If Thanksgiving was one week earlier like it was last year, it would have helped out a little bit. Now we’re sprinting to the finish line here.”

Puna Chocolate Company recently opened its Kailua-Kona store in the Brewery Block on Pawai Place. Vanegtern said the company prides itself on being a “100% Hawaiian designed and produced company.”

The business grows all of its chocolate on the Big Island, and works with small farmers to bring their crops to production. The store also wholesales other products made on the island.

“(Shopping local) directly effects your own community,” Vanegtern said. “It goes right back to the employees that work in the business and they use that to help support other local businesses as well.”

Sandwiched between the sales and deals Thanksgiving weekend for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, there was an initiative to shop local.

Local businesses in and around Kona hoped customers would save the spending Thanksgiving weekend for Small Business Saturday, a campaign started by American Express in 2010 to urge consumers to support local businesses in their community over big companies.

Small retail stores and restaurants around town participated in Small Business Saturday in order to promote keeping holiday spending dollars in local hands.

Kiana Lum is the owner of Wicked Chirashi, a restaurant in Kailua-Kona’s Lanihau Shopping Center that focuses on food bowls with Hawaiian food such as poke and kalua pork.

Lum said she only really heard about Small Business Saturday this year, and she believes the message behind the day is important to the island’s economy.

“You’ve got to support the local businesses,” Lum said.

Despite the push for Small Business Saturday, Lum said business for her restaurant was “pretty slow” for Thanksgiving weekend and the following week.

Some of the slowness local businesses on the island experienced on Small Business Saturday could be attributed to consumers moving to online purchases.

Nationwide, Small Business Saturday saw some success online as opposed to at brick and mortar stores. A survey released by Adobe Analytics said Small Business Saturday posted a record-breaking $3.6 billion dollars for online sales this year.

A survey by NRF for Thanksgiving weekend found 124 million people shopped in stores, as opposed to 142.2 million who shopped online.

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The National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts a 3.8% to 4.3% increase in holiday spending this year, which will total $727.9 billion to $730.7 billion.

NRF tallies retail sales from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31 to determine holiday sales.

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