North Platte shoppers keep it small Saturday

Shoppers browse through the various booths of local businesses owned by women at the Women’s Expo hosted by the Platte River Mall on Shop Small Saturday.

Despite blustery weather accompanied by cold temperatures, Shop Small Saturday kept a brisk pace in North Platte.

Shoppers wandered through “The Bricks” in downtown, as well as Platte River Mall and some other locally owned stores.

Tim O’Connor, owner of The Sports Shoppe and Big Red Etc., said the event is mostly to bring attention to shopping at local establishments.

“Retail is very unpredictable, but we’ll always be very fortunate and blessed because there’s always that ‘secret recipe,” I call it, of customers,” O’Connor said. “People can say a lot about loyalty, but we’re fortunate to have the relationships and those people continue to support the place and bring in their kids and grandkids to support the place. Those are the heartwarming situations.”

The Shop Small event sometimes brings in new customers.

“It’s someone that comes in that might not have been in before and learns what we have,” O’Connor said. “There might be some other people come in just to see what we do have.”

The Big Red Etc. side of the business is affected by whether the Husker football team wins.

“There’s no doubt the loss on Friday will affect business somewhat,” O’Connor said. “You’ll have your true, genuine fans who’ll be there through thin and thin, or thick and thin. They’ll always be there.”

Nebraska has a solid base of fans, which translates into a solid base for his business, O’Connor said.

“You base your inventory on your authentic fan base, the ones that you know,” O’Connor said. “At the same time, you adjust for what happens when they win or lose a couple of games.”

He said it’s a lot like other sports teams.

“It’s interesting because it’s probably like a lot of schools — when they’re winning, there’s a large percentage that definitely jump on the old wagon,” O’Connor said.

Along with Husker merchandise, the Sports Shoppe offers sportswear with a focus on athletic shoes.

“With advice from podiatrists and physical therapists, we still do a lot with technical shoes,” O’Connor said. “Definitely one of our big niches is shoes and we go through an awful lot.”

He said the shop doesn’t carry a lot of what some might consider the popular styles.

“We quit carrying a lot of casual footwear,” O’Connor said. “Because although it might be what the kids love or it might be the looks thing, but the proper support is missing, we don’t carry it.”

O’Connor said many podiatrists and physical therapists say improper footwear is creating permanent physical problems.

Shopping local has been the mantra for local small businesses in North Platte, and O’Connor said there are some things that online businesses cannot offer.

“I hope they’re going to get from us product knowledge and hopefully they’ll get service to make sure it fits right, to make sure that’s what they’re needing,” O’Connor said. “Most importantly is that we form relationships with our customers, so there’s a trust factor. I hope that’s something that they get when they come in.”

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