Portland small box stores attract new customers

Credit: Wayne Havrelly

U.S. Representative Suzanne Bonamici tours the print shop Oblation in Portland's Pearl District for the Little Boxes shopping event Saturday.

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by Wayne Havrelly, KGW Staff

kgw.com

Posted on December 1, 2013 at 11:05 AM

Updated Sunday, Dec 1 at 11:05 AM

PORTLAND -- Boutique stores all over Portland have been busy places on Black Friday and Saturday. 

"We don't have time to be interviewed. It's time to shop," said Lori Silverman who came to the Pearl District boutiques after hearing about Portland's "Small Box" promotion. 

Details: Little Boxes Guide

It's an idea created by the owners of jewelry boutique Betsy and Iya.  

More: Little Boxes a small store alternative to Black Friday

"As a small business, we couldn't afford big advertising, but we thought if we all join together, we sure can," said co-creator Will Cervarich. 

Ninety small businesses signed up when it started 3 years ago.  This year, more than 200 local small box stores are taking part.

U.S. congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici toured some of Portland's small boxes Saturday morning along with Portland commissioner Nick Fish. 

"Shopping local means dollars are local, jobs are local, and it really gives people an opportunity to learn our city too," said Rep. Bonamici. 

"In Multnomah county, 95 percent of our businesses have 50 or fewer employees, so this whole small box idea is in our DNA," said Commissioner Fish.

Of course our region has plenty of big box stores too.  Many, including Target reported strong shopping traffic on Thanksgiving day and Black Friday.  They haven't provided specific numbers. 

More: Americans kick off 2-day holiday shopping marathon

Even little box store owners agree that big box stores have their place, but when it comes to one of a kind gifts, they say Portland's small boxes rule. 

"The boutiques in Portland are the best nationwide and I've seen them all," said shopper Erin Shaw who was visiting family in Portland from New Orleans. 

It turns out other cities are now eyeballing Portland's small box promotion, which has been highlighted in several national publications including Businessweek.

"Some small box stores in the promotion have reported a 60 percent increase in business compared to Black Friday shopping last year," said Cervarich. 

Complete coverage: Black Friday

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