"My motto would be, 'You don't have to be expensive to be designer,'" says Patrick Dilascia, owner and designer of PAR-LA, a small clothing shop at 8205 Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood.
Masses of bargain-hungry consumers are expected to show up for this year’s Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving when retailers showcase their holiday sales.
But some Americans are opting out of the traditional shopping spree to participate in Shop Small Business Saturday, an initiative that has garnered over 2 million likes on Facebook.
California is home to 3.2 million small businesses, about two-thirds of which are run by sole proprietors and the rest have less than 100 employees, according to Scott Hauge of Small Business California.
Saturday’s initiative wants holiday shoppers to shift their attention - and their wallets - toward those smaller shops.
While big retailers, like Target and Walmart, will likely have customers lining up at their doors, Hauge said not too many small businesses will get the same attention.
“Big businesses have a large advertising budget. Small businesses need to find their own angles,” he said. “They’re local, they keep the money in the local economy. They need to remind people, ‘We’re your neighbors.’”
Small businesses are also afforded more flexibility with the products they offer, Hauge said. Products outside of the mainstream are easier to get on the shelves, because they do not have to go through corporate headquarters for approval and distribution.
Based on their prices, there is little competition between small businesses and huge retailers, which have equally large economies, Hauge said. Still, there are ways to put up a fight.
“They need to make it chic to be there,” he said.
And in Los Angeles, a chic shop isn’t hard to come by.
West Hollywood’s PAR-LA follows Hauge’s rules for establishing a solid small business.
“My motto would be, ‘You don’t have to be design to be expensive,’” said Patrick Dilascia, owner and designer of PAR-LA. “I want you to get news clothes, not rip you off.”
Outside of decorating his store front windows with hanging lights and balsam trees, Dilaschia said he doesn’t have holiday sales because his prices are already low - with a men’s blazer running about $130.
PAR-LA has been home on Santa Monica Boulevard for a year now, and employs four workers - including Dilascia, who makes it chic to be at his shop.
He’s thrown botox parties, and hosted tattoos artists and hair stylists to give the customers some love in his two-tiered store, the racks of which are on wheels for easy party clearance.
“It’s all about the relationship with the customer,” Dilascia said. “And we’re in the perfect spot.”
Dilaschia, who gets his inspiration from his family’s upstate New York bakery, said he goes through every shirt personally, and described himself as “obsessed with quality.”
PAR-LA carries predominantly menswear, but includes unisex accessories and some clothing. The converted ice cream parlor turned fashion warehouse is an alternative to the mass-produced retail giants.
“We don’t carry a lot of stock, so not everyone is going to have your item,” he said.
As more Americans become aware of the small business option, less banks are lending to mom and pop shops, and in the Southland that lending is a fraction of what it used to be.
So far this year, banks have granted 2,477 loans to small businesses in Los Angeles, according to data from the Small Business Administration. They made 6,194 loans in all of 2007.
Traditionally, small-business owners would put their homes up as collateral, but with the decline in the housing market, that is option is no longer available, Hauge said.
But a shift in the U.S. economic psyche could be working in their favor, even is banks are not eager to shell out.
The anti-big environment sweeping the country – through initiatives like Shop Small Saturday, the Occupy movements and consumers moving their accounts from big banks to credit unions – is a force for small businesses.
“That’s an element small businesses need to take advantage of,” Hauge said.