‘Shop Sonoma’ keeps it local
Multiple organizations, including the Sonoma City Council, the Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau are working together to make Sonoma a shopping wonderland this Thanksgiving weekend, during the busiest shopping period of the year.
To some extent, the programs ride the coattails of the full-contact shopping day known as Black Friday, but are much more in line with a newer addition to the holiday-shopping pantheon, Small Business Saturday, an effort begun by American Express to highlight local small business and something of a reaction against Black Friday hysteria that has caught on in recent years – even among businesses that don’t accept AmEx.
The main program locally, Shop Sonoma, enters its fifth year, but “This is the first year we’ve expanded from Black Friday to the whole weekend,” said Laurie Decker, Sonoma’s economic development program manager. In fact, the City Council decreed the weekend after Thanksgiving be dubbed “Shop Sonoma Days” by proclamation, encouraging “all residents to think Sonoma Valley first when shopping this holiday season to help support our local economy.”
“Shopping locally is vital to the overall health of our community,” said Decker. She cites a range of benefits including the sales tax that helps fund city services, jobs provided by local businesses, the fact that dollars spent locally recirculate in the local economy and the environmental benefits of reduced vehicle trips.
In the shopping frenzy that follows the Thanksgiving feeding frenzy, Americans spend billions of dollars. And much of it flows out of the community, going to multi-national corporations. The aim that programs such as Shop Sonoma have in common with Small Business Saturday is in keeping some of those dollars, which can provide an important boost, local. Taxable sales in Sonoma are currently trending more than 8 percent over last year, according to Decker, but this period is still of vital importance. “For the local retailers,” said Decker, “The holiday season is critical to their success.”
All weekend banners on the Plaza (designed, sponsored, and produced by local businesses) will remind shoppers, “There’s no place like Sonoma for the holiday season.” Shoppers can pick up free, reusable “Shop Sonoma” tote bags at the Red Grape on Friday and throughout the weekend as long as they last. The bags were provided by the Sonoma Valley Economic Development Partnership, a collaboration of the city and the chamber.
For those who need a break from filling up their free tote bags, Envolve Winery is offering free “holiday” flights at its tasting room to locals on Saturday and will begin its toy drive, during which it will reward those who drop off new, unwrapped toys with a complimentary Epilogue tasting (the toy drive runs through Dec. 15). Evolve will also present live music with the Cork Pullers from 2 to 5 p.m.
While there is a focus on encouraging Sonomans to patronize their local shops, Decker points out, “The businesses that are most successful are attractive to both locals and visitors.” To that end, the Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau has been conducting outreach to the larger Bay Area with its “Holidays in Sonoma” campaign.
The campaign includes ads in Sunset magazine, AAA’s Via, the San Francisco Chronicle and SFgate.com, along with radio spots on KOIT, Radio 910 with Len Tillem and Joel Ridell of Dining Around and KCBS. The ads direct people to a website that features general information about travel to the Valley and highlights events such as Shop Sonoma Days and the new Downtown Window Decorating Contest, which will wind down the local holiday shopping season.
The window decorating contest, in which Plaza stores compete to see who can create the most popular window display in a friendly competition, is a new initiative begun by Plaza merchants, spearheaded by Bella Vita’s Janis Snyder.
Participating stores will frame their windows with distinctive white lights, signifying they are part of the contest.
Participants, so far, include Angelique Boutique, Artifax, Baksheesh, Bear Moon Clothing, Bella Vita Sonoma, Eminent Design, Fleurtique, French Nest, Large Leather, My Girlfriend’s Closet, Pandora’s Box, Sigh Champagne and Sparkling Wine, Sisters, Sonoma Home, Sonoma Silver and Tiddle E. Winks.
Shoppers get to vote on their favorite display via ballot boxes in the stores; a cast ballot also enters the customer to win a gift basket valued at more than $1,000, featuring products and gift certificates from the participating merchants. Voting begins Friday, Nov. 30 and goes through Sunday, Dec. 16. On Dec. 17, both the winning window and the winner of the basket will be announced.