If you picked up your Post-Gazette from your front porch today, you already know tomorrow is Black Friday.
Inside the newspaper there are about two pounds of circulars from practically every chain store in the region.
So how is a small shop with an equally small budget for advertising supposed to compete?
The answer, in part, lies in Small Business Saturday, the newest of the retailing faux-holidays, joining Black Friday and Cyber Monday. (Sleep-in Sunday has not caught on with the nation's retailers as it has with the nation's parents.)
Small Business Saturday is a chance to help improve sales at smaller retailers who don't have lines outside of their doors filled with people hoping to buy one of the three $100 televisions or one of the half dozen $200 laptop computers inside.
Instead, small retailers provide a community with something else entirely: a place to shop that is not a carbon copy (for those who remember carbon paper) of every other store in every other region of the country.
First-time visitors, for instance, do not immediately know the location of Legos in S.W. Randall Toyes and Giftes, Downtown, but they do get a chance to see and touch toys that are displayed out of the box. Adults are surprised by the nostalgia they feel by seeing the toys of their own childhoods for sale. There are even toys that reach beyond the baby boom to their parents' generations.
"We sell new old toys," said Jack Cohen, the owner.
His reaction to Small Business Saturday is that while it may or may not help bring in shoppers, it doesn't do any harm. "It can't hurt to let people think that if they want to protect this community store, they ought to come back," he said.
Generally, he said, with or without Small Business Saturday, his stores Downtown and in Shadyside and Squirrel Hill are busy throughout the holiday shopping season, with the weekend following Thanksgiving mostly notable for multiple generations of families shopping together.
Small Business Saturday was founded in 2010 by American Express, which also provides fliers and banners that businesses can download and print.
The website, www.shopsmall.com, includes a link on the top that says "Where to shop." Clicking on that link provides a less-than-perfect aid to shopping because it lists more than just retail stores, including doctors, dentists, attorneys, politicians and nonprofits.
Based on an American Express survey, in addition to promoting the small business shopping day, 46 percent of the businesses plan to offer coupons for future offers or discounts; 25 percent will offer free gift wrapping; 23 percent will give away prizes or host contests; and 20 percent will give a free gift with a purchase.
Liz Weber-Jaskiewicz, owner of The Painted Giraffe in North Fayette, is making this year's Small Business Saturday an event at her store with giveaways and tastings. The store is a melange of gift items, stuffed animals, candles, wine glasses and religious items sharing the space with toys, jellies and a variety of items that can be personalized, such as picture frames, T-shirts and even a funeral urn.
Black Friday tends to be quiet at her Steubenville Pike store, she said, because that is when shoppers flock to malls and big box stores.
But on Small Business Saturday, she will be able to share her love of working on custom gifts with customers, creating one-of-a-kind creations with prices that generally range from $10 to $40.
Her "buy local" ethic is strong, with locally crafted candles and jewelry that is all American-made by women. She said supporting local merchants and local businesses is an important part of her business because "local money stays local."
And if Small Business Saturday is a bust, Ms. Weber-Jaskiewicz is ready for Cyber Monday at www.thepaintedgiraffe.com.
Ann Belser: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1699.