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Small NC retailers seeking shoppers on Saturday

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

A Forsyth County goat dairy is offering giveaways and samples to visitors willing to break away from the Christmas shopping rush to malls. A Winston-Salem publisher has promised to fetch any book that's in stock from its warehouse for customers who drop in Saturday. A Charlotte lawn sign company is offering a 25 percent discount on reservations made that day. 

The businesses are among those in North Carolina and across the country taking part in Small Business Saturday, an effort wedged between Black Friday and Cyber Monday to get gift-givers to patronize local shops. 

We're "basically trying to get people to understand that there's more places to shop other than Wal-Mart, and we've got such a variety of items that they'd never see in a big retailer," said Johnny Blakley, who is hoping to lure shoppers to his Buffalo Creek Farm and Creamery in the tiny town of Germanton. It's a goat dairy that makes and sells cheeses on the property on the Forsyth-Stokes county line. 

The shop Blakley and his wife operate on the farm stocks herbs, soaps, jams and jellies, honey and other products from about a dozen small businesses across the state. Several of those producers will be at the farm Saturday, including the honey-making beekeeper with a hive of live bees. 

Shopping locally increases the odds of giving a gift that won't be duplicated, Blakley said, and the money shoppers spend in small stores will circulate through the local economy. 

"You spend your money with Wal-Mart, it's going to go out to Arkansas and then no telling where it's going to go," he said. 

American Express helped launch Small Business Saturday in 2010 to encourage people to buy from independent retailers and other small businesses during the big shopping weekend. Thanksgiving weekend is important because it kicks off the Christmas shopping season, and it's even more crucial this year because of the shorter lead-up to the holiday, said the National Federation of Independent Business, which is also behind the seasonal shopping push to think small. 

"If you want to make a difference this holiday season, shop local and shop small," said Gregg Thompson, NFIB's North Carolina state director. 

About 140 million Americans are expected to hit stores this weekend ahead of Cyber Monday, when Internet retailers have special offers to lure spending online, the National Retail Federation said. The visitors will peak the day after Thanksgiving on Black Friday - when major chain stores promote big deals to attract shoppers - with about 97 million customers, compared with 61 million on Saturday and 34 million on Sunday, the retail group said. 

The average American plans to spend an average of $738, down 2 percent from last holiday season, but 57 percent of that will be spent over Thanksgiving weekend, the group estimates. Although the average may be down this year, the federation forecasts that overall holiday sales will be $602 billion, 4 percent more than last year.

An Elon University poll this month found more than eight out of 10 North Carolina residents said they were planning on doing some holiday shopping. One-third plan to shop on Cyber Monday, while 26 percent expect to shop on Black Friday. About 11 percent said they plan to shop on both days. 

John F. Blair, a book publishing company in Winston-Salem, is experimenting Saturday by selling its book catalog at a 30 percent discount to people who pop into its offices. It doesn't have a retail store, but nearly anything is available with a worker willing to quickly hop back to the book warehouse in back, spokeswoman Trisina Dickerson said. 

The office sale benefits the business because even with the discount, Blair collects more than by selling wholesale its inventory of books on Andy Griffith, craft beer, state parks and crime fiction, she said. 

"It's something new that we're trying," Dickerson said. 

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