Family in downtown Franklin

As this year’s Small Business Saturday rolls around two days after Thanksgiving, many downtown Franklin merchants will offer special discounts, feature various promotions and participate in the “Window Wonderland” window display contest.

But in 2020, with the country still in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, the small-business kickoff to the Christmas shopping season will take on a tone that goes beyond promotions and window dressings.

“Small Business Saturday is more than a marketing effort this year,” said Jill Burgin, executive director of the Main Street program and Government Relations for the Downtown Franklin Association. 

“Many of the merchants downtown have experienced sales losses of 70% during the pandemic. They have had to cut their hours and lay off employees, and some have changed their entire business model in order to survive.”

To help downtown businesses recover somewhat by making more shoppers aware of how strongly their spending is needed during this holiday season, Heritage Foundation of Williamson County and its division the Downtown Franklin Association have partnered with Visit Franklin and the city of Franklin to announce promotions for Small Business Saturday and free public transportation every Saturday during Holiday Magic on Main, presented by First Citizens National Bank.  

“[Small Business Saturday] is a reminder that, yes, you can order from e-commerce corporations like Amazon," Burgin added. But if you want to avoid shipping delays and package thefts and be able to check the quality of a product while holding it in your hands, then shopping local is the best way to do that.

“On top of that, you’re actually helping your community by keeping the businesses that make it unique stay in business.”

In addition to the individual store promotions, the DFA is working with the TMA Group, Franklin’s public transportation service, to offer free shuttles between downtown Franklin and The Factory at Franklin every Saturday during this promotion from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Shuttles will run on Nov. 28, Dec. 5, Dec. 12 and Dec. 19.

Burgin noted the free shuttle offers flexibility for people to park at The Factory and shop there and in downtown Franklin. 

“With the road work going on along Franklin Road, we want to do everything possible to make the shopping experience easier,” she said. “The National Retail Federation reports that more people will be Christmas shopping earlier this year, to avoid crowds and to bypass any shipping delays they may experience online. We want to support that and highlight the variety of shopping options available in downtown Franklin.”

The key to helping small-business owners in Franklin is to get shoppers through the doors, according to Heritage Foundation CEO Bari Beasley. The Christmas season offers a way forward and perhaps can help offset the setback from the pandemic’s impact. 

“After the devastating shutdown earlier this year, the merchants have worked hard to recover and make the most out of a crisis,” Beasely said. “We are grateful to have another opportunity to showcase our wonderful square with safe, family-friendly activations.”

Click here to see some of the specials shoppers can find in downtown Franklin stores.