San Jose locals support small businesses with holiday shopping
The entrance line for the San Jose Made Craft Holiday Fair. Photo courtesy of Dianne Chan.

Black Friday retail lines may have been shorter than expected this year, but San Jose residents still flocked to small businesses for their holiday shopping.

The San Jose Made Craft Holiday Fair drew unexpectedly large crowds at the Santa Clara Convention Center over the three-day event, which included Black Friday and Small Business Saturday. More than 350 vendors displayed artwork, candles, clothing, toys, food and jewelry at the fair.

“Nationally, we saw a recovery for Black Friday and Small Business Saturday from 2020, and our retail members reported that as well,” said San Jose Chamber of Commerce CEO Derrick Seaver.

The crowds backed up Seaver’s comments, with the convention center’s 1,800 parking spots overflowing into the auxiliary lot.

One bakery vendor, DV’s Sweets, sold out on two of the three event days.

“I was overwhelmed with the amount of supporters in the community lining up at all booths, including mine,” DV’s Sweets owner Desiree Villescaz told San José Spotlight. She’s looking forward to strong sales in the coming months, thanks to the new customers she found at the fair.

DV’s Sweets owner Desiree Villescaz poses at her booth at the San Jose Made Craft Holiday Fair. Photo courtesy of Desiree Villescaz.

The craft fair response boosted revenue for many vendors who struggled throughout the pandemic as foot traffic and sales dried up.

“People really turned out,” said Jessica Chen, the artist behind Point Line Concept laser-cut crafts. “Every single day had a solid, constant flow of people and sales exceeded all of our expectations.”

Pop-up shops

Another holiday shopping event hosted by Pop Up San Jose, producer of the San Jose Vintage Market, took place on Berryessa Road at the San Jose Flea Market during the Black Friday and Small Business Saturday weekend.

Pop Up San Jose owner Dre Lucero estimates approximately 800 shoppers came to his pop-up vintage clothing market on Black Friday, which was about what he expected.

“It was slow to be completely honest,” said Alondra Garcia, owner of Gemini Thrift Fits. Although the turnout wasn’t the best, Garcia was still able to meet her $500 sales goal on Black Friday.

Attendance at the vintage market improved on Small Business Saturday, reaching more than 1,000 people.

Lucero started the vintage market in October 2020 after the pandemic caused events to be canceled, leaving vintage clothing vendors like him with no opportunities to sell apparel in person.

Last year’s Pop Up San Jose Black Friday and Small Business Saturday events were “one of a kind,” Lucero said. He believes his venture helped small business markets blossom all over the Bay Area this year.

“The spirit of the pandemic had people choosing small businesses over big box stores and the mall,” he told San José Spotlight.

The American Express 2021 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey found projected nationwide spending at independent retailers and restaurants on Small Business Saturday reached an estimated $23.3 billion.

Black Friday shopping has not fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels and was exasperated by a recent string of retail thefts in the city. A national CNBC study found that 34% of Americans surveyed planned to “shop small” on Small Business Saturday—the day after Black Friday—and San Jose shoppers did just that.

Seaver expects San Jose’s holiday shopping data to mirror the national reports, but is still waiting to gather the local data before drawing conclusions.

Out and about

Despite the smaller crowds in retail stores over the holiday weekend, traditional holiday shopping at the mall is still favored.

Esther and Olivia Pykett, a mother-daughter pair shopping in Francesca’s at Westfield Oakridge Mall, said they do most of their holiday shopping there in the mall, even though they also shop online.

Olivia Pykett and her mother Esther look at dresses in Francesca’s at Oakridge Mall in South San Jose. Photo by Kristen Pizzo.

“I got most of my shopping done on Amazon and at Yankee Candle, Bath and Body Works, Macy’s, and See’s Candies,” Esther said.

The two said they shop at small businesses as well, but only those in Gilroy where they reside.

For some, shopping at the mall is about more than just store preferences and convenience. Rika G., who was browsing in BoxLunch, said she’s just happy to have somewhere to go.

“I haven’t been out in a long time due to the pandemic so it’s nice to get out and do my shopping this way,” she told San José Spotlight.

Contact Kristen Pizzo at [email protected]

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