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Renee’s of South Padre owner offers reasons to buy local this holiday season

It’s that time of the year again — time for Christmas music piped in over stores’ loudspeakers, letters to Santa, and struggling to find the perfect gifts for everyone on your list — along with checking it twice.

This year, with shopping deals like Black Friday and Cyber Monday extending for days, locally owned stores here in the Rio Grande Valley have felt the strain of competition when it comes to making sales. While much of the rivalry has traditionally been from big box, national chain retailers, increasingly, the heat has emanated from online retail giants like Amazon.

“We have seen an evolution of swift change,” said Renee Martin, owner of Renee’s of South Padre. “Unless one offers a shopping event for customers, we will lose that business to online retailers. In a very short time our competition is the world instead of the guy in the town next door.”

Martin, who has lived in the Rio Grande Valley for 35 years, established Renee’s of Sharyland in the late 1990s. She sold that property in March 2017 and still owns Renee’s of South Padre, which has had a presence at the island for about seven years. Martin cites resort activities at the beach as a big boost for her business.

“I wanted a faith-based community hub,” Martin said regarding her namesake stores’ histories. “Whether a customer spent $5 or $5,000, all my customers got superior service with a smile. I offered products my customers wanted at the best price…many new and hard-to-find items.”

Martin’s boutique features everything from costume and fine jewelry to shoes, apparel, and decor. Both Renee’s locations offer promotions that highlight national brands like Pandora, Brighton, and UNOde50, all of which are jewelry and accessory companies. From richly designed handbags to embellished, oversized sunglasses, many reviews on the Facebook page for Renee’s of South Padre commented on loving the merchandise offered at the store and touted the location as a perfect place to find special gifts for yourself and loved ones.

“Everything you want and nothing you need!” Martin joked about the store’s inventory.

It could be the extras that local stores provide that set them apart from big online retailers.

“Adding services such as the coffee house and the spa and salon was a huge win for Renee’s of Sharyland,” Martin said. “Adding services keeps the foot traffic steady.”

The magic of foot traffic is something online retailers can’t quite replicate. There’s a certain level of serendipity when a shopper is physically inside a store. They might come in search of one item and fall in love with another just by virtue of stumbling upon it. For Renee’s of Sharyland, the coffee house tempted customers with caffeinated brews and food specials. Those who went to eat could also purchase a trinket or gift from the store itself that they might not have sought out otherwise.

Small businesses also have an advantage over larger and online competitors because of the idea that they belong in and serve the community they do business in. One CNBC article posited that online retailers like Amazon won’t trouble smaller, locally owned businesses that fit a niche in their towns.

“Being a micro-sized business certainly isn’t protection against big-box retailers or online competitors, but being a small business that’s an integral part of a local community can help build a loyal customer base,” the CNBC article read.

The success of Renee’s is likely a testament to just how involved Martin is in the Rio Grande Valley.

“A business owner has to give back,” she said. “We had dozens of events during the year with a huge push for breast cancer awareness and our Thanksgiving table, which served the less fortunate. That was always a great kickoff into holiday giving.”

And in the face of competition and sales from big box stores and online retail giants, another shopping holiday has steadily been taking hold: Small Business Saturday, the day after Black Friday. American Express created the concept of Small Business Saturday in 2010 to aid locally owned businesses still caught in the grips of the economic recession. The shopping holiday has enjoyed success since then, offering an impetus for shoppers to visit small businesses in their cities. CNBC counted 112 million shoppers who used their buying power for 2016’s Small Business Saturday — the highest number since the creation of the holiday.

For Martin, a moral imperative exists for supporting locally owned businesses.

“Our family philosophy had been you should spend your money where you make your money,” she said. “This secures all jobs in your community.”

Visit the Facebook page for Renee’s of South Padre at https://www.facebook.com/ReneesofSouthPadre/.