By Carol Ramirez
Make no mistake, the 2017 Holiday shopping season was strong for most retailers. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Small Business Saturday were all successful marketing promotions. However, after several years of growth, Small Business Saturday saw a dip in both foot traffic and overall dollars spent in 2017. American Express and the National Federation of Independent Business reported traffic was down 3.5%, revenue down nearly 14%, while roughly 43% of American adults either shopped or dined small on that Saturday, nationally.
If we really want to help our local economy, we should have 52 Small Business Saturdays each year and 60+% of adults participating. After all, what makes my town my home are the small, locally owned and operated businesses. It is the gift shop that I find just the right and unique gift for my friend’s birthday. It is the coffee shop that brews the perfect latte. In order to keep our community vibrant and striving we need to shop local…ALL THE TIME. A small business cannot keep afloat if we only visit them on one Small Business Saturday.
As a little girl, I used to love going to our local music store. The records on the shelves, the guitars hanging from the ceiling, would fill my ear with wonder. What record would I find? The owner knew me and would suggest the latest Beatles record. Okay…I am giving my age away. My favorite moments were doing errands with my Mom. We would stop at the local nursery. They knew our names and what plants we needed. Then we would go to the local deli, and they would start making my regular sandwich before I got to the counter. I eventually worked at that local deli, and the owners and customers became my second family. I cherish these moments, and these memories feel like a warm hug. Unfortunately, my computer doesn’t make those memories. Shopping online doesn’t fill my soul with the human, tangible experience.
I communicate with businesses, restaurants, galleries, music stores, and florists every day. They all agree that chains and online retailers such as Amazon.com carve deeply into their profits. But it also cuts into our communities’ wealth as well, because of what economists call the “multiplier effect.”
The Institute of Self-Reliance and other Civic Economics studies clearly show that shopping “independent retailers return more than three times as much money per dollar of sales than chain competitors,” and “locally-owned independent restaurants return twice as much to our local economy than chain restaurants per dollar of revenue.” As for buying remotely on the web, these studies suggest “it creates almost no local benefit–just a few minutes’ work for a delivery person.”
Shopping online has its place in our capitalistic society, but It shouldn’t be our only mode of commerce. Kudos to American Express for creating “Small Business Saturday”; but really, we can do better than one day a year – we need to do better than one day a year.
A state-by-state breakout shows the most popular small businesses visited on the day were restaurants, bars, and pubs (41 percent), followed by clothing and accessories stores (24 percent), food stores (23 percent) and coffee shops (22 percent).
Shopping local creates more jobs and supports more wages. Our local businesses give our communities character. They support our children’s schools and support local sports, arts, schools, and donate to charities. We must keep these businesses thriving.
Carol Ramirez is a small business advertising, marketing and merchandising consultant for the gift, grocery, and natural foods industries. Send local advertising and promotions inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.