(or small businesses any day?)
I'll say up front that I am in on planning a Small Business Event with Peacock's Design & Consign (a local business), and my Etsy Crew, so I'm not completely without agenda as I write this. In fact, I want you to come to this event or one like it if you are not in the Tampa Bay area.
Christmas shopping... either you love it or dread it. I get anxiety when I can't find a parking spot or in crowded places so it's natural for me to do all my Christmas shopping online. Cyber Monday is my friend. I'm also pretty thrifty so I love a good Black Friday deal, but with the lines and frenzied pace, it's less tempting to me. So then we come to Small Business Saturday.
It's relatively new. American Express started it in 2010. Now why would a credit card company care how you spend their money as long as you keep using that card? Well, they don't. However, getting more small businesses to accept American Express may have been a motivation. After all, they send out a sweet Small Business Saturday kit to businesses that register with them. Let's not dismiss it as a ploy though. Even though this began as a credit card thing, small businesses have championed the call to bring holiday shopping to local shops.
So what are we talking about when we use the term "Small Business"? Legally, a small business is defined as a business employing less than 500 people, so there is a great variety in how they can look and operate. My business is a one person operation that provides supplemental income for a stay at home mom. A friend works for a custom bathroom refit company that employs 300 people in three different states. 65% of new jobs are created by small businesses. They currently employ about half of the working population in the US.
Interesting, right? But why should I venture out and spend my money at a small business? I am so glad you asked, let me tell you! First of all, it's community. These businesses are run by your friends, your neighbors. Your money is staying local and supporting your town. A lot of businesses purchase supplies locally as well. Small business donate 250% more to local groups than the national retailers do. Our schools, our charities, our economy all fair better when we spend at local businesses. Small businesses also support a town's identity. It's sad how many strip malls with all the same stores can be found in town after town. We have to support the quaint stores and cute shops if we want them to stay open.
My favorite part of the small business experience is the shopping itself. I love to give unique gifts that are regional or just one of a kind. That's hard to find at the larger stores. And let's talk about customer service. When you deal with the creator of an item, they often feel personally responsible to make sure you're happy with their product. Returns, alterations, custom orders- usually not a problem and you get an answer back quickly.
Inevitably cost comes up whenever "hand crafted" is mentioned. This is another reason to get out and come to Small Business events like the TBEC one. When you talk to the maker and understand the quality you are getting and the time put into it, the costs are really reasonable. Sometimes I've found things even cheaper than in larger stores anyway and many sellers will bargain with you if you purchase several items.
I think the main reason that people might not support small businesses is the convenience factor. It's true, Walmart is the only place open at 3 am when you have to go get toilet paper, but most of the time when we are shopping for other people or for an event, we know pretty well in advance. It just takes a little planning. Thanks to the magic of the internet it's easy to search for local places and even read reviews of them. The Etsy website has a cool feature where you can have it just show items available from your area. A lot of sellers will let you meet up with them locally so that would save shipping costs too. Shipping is one of the drawbacks of shopping online- the expense, the environmental costs, the time, and hoping it gets delivered to the right address undamaged.
I'll admit that I still plan on getting my son's major electronic Christmas present from a bigger chain, but I also plan on spending just as much, if not more, locally. Maybe, like me, you'll be out of town for Small Business Saturday. Any day can and should be a Small Business day so don't let the day or time of year limit you from getting out there and supporting your local small businesses.
What is your favorite small business? What reasons do you have for shopping locally?