It’s that time of the year! Food is consumed (and wasted) in abundance. Scheduled family gatherings facilitate good spirits and memories, or provide a platform to air grievances. Material gifts are bought to symbolize our love for one another.
Whoops, almost forgot about the annual hysteria surrounding Black Friday. A national pastime on every Friday after Thanksgiving, in which citizens assault (sometimes murder) each other for access to discounted products.
The Monday following Thanksgiving is known as Cyber Monday, which is basically Black Friday, minus the physical violence. Consumers clamber to take advantage of discounts as soon as they’re posted online.
I want to highlight the lesser known large-scale shopping event wedged between the behemoths of Black Friday and Cyber Monday; Small Business Saturday.
What is Small Business Saturday?
I know, it sounds like another forced event to drive people out into the market, and that’s pretty much what it is. But the difference from Cyber Monday and Black Friday is that Small Business Saturday has more wholesome intentions. Where many “holidays” have evolved into annual marketing plays, SBS means maintaining local communities by way of financial support.
It was rather surprising to find that American Express initiated the holiday in 2010 with a “Shop Small” campaign. During the economic downturn of 2008, small businesses needed a surge of support, or risk going out of business. The credit card company partnered with National Trust for Historic Preservation, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, and Roslindale Village Main Street to get the event off the ground.
In 2011, the Senate passed a resolution acknowledging the holiday and establishing a working relationship with the Small Business Association. Support spread across all 50 states, and eventually over to the United Kingdom.
You can find “Neighborhood Champions”, or organizations that support small and local businesses on Small Business Saturday, with this link.
What’s the Big Deal with Supporting Small Business?
We all have different tendencies and perceptions that inform our shopping routines. Some are more price conscious, and will prioritize affordability. Others are concerned with utilization, and prioritize function over price. Small Business Saturday hopes to make community support a priority.
To be honest, the quality of products available at commercial store chains is not any better than the stuff you get at the local market. Buying local supports more than just that business owner. Of course, any employees they have are getting support. Small business owners also tend to buy from and support other small businesses and local neighborhoods. Buying from chain markets or department stores supports a far off corporate conglomerate.
Why are prices higher in small businesses? Because the money is going right back to keeping the business afloat. Why are prices lower in bigger businesses? Because the owners are already paid, business is stable, and employees are cheap. That’s why Walmart can have the same product for one or two dollars less than a local market.
The money you spend in small and local businesses goes further towards supporting your surrounding communities than if you spent twice as much with a commercial brand. (This idea is also true for money spent with black owned businesses.)
How Can I Support Small and Local Business Without Giving All My Money?
You don’t have to immediately shift your shopping habits, but it would be great to start the transition soon, seeing as we are in the middle of a global pandemic. Even if it doesn’t mean spending every dollar with a certain business, support in many forms can go a long way.
Share the Brand
Small and local businesses have small and local budgets. Not much room for advertising or marketing. Your favorite store could be out there, you just never saw marketing for it. If you enjoy a brand, let your friends know! Share their social media page. Shout them out on your page. All of this is free marketing that local shops could use a lot more than Target or Best Buy.
Nominate the Business
There are plenty of award programs that grant money and recognition for growing businesses. Your local news station or magazine will often run a highlight of local businesses. Both would be perfect opportunities to nominate a small business you really appreciate. This goes back to that free marketing from earlier, but these kinds of recognition also serve to heighten the opportunity of funding for businesses. If you have the opportunity to help a business win an award or gain recognition, that could change the entire trajectory.
Offer Your Services
I’m sure you have a talent or skill set that a business could benefit from. Graphic design, copywriting, website design, and even heavy lifting are all talents that could be used in the day-to-day operations of a business. Volunteer or discount your services for a business that could use it, you’ll be lending a big hand.
Before you leave Thanksgiving dinner to go stampede Best Buy, rest on Friday and wait for Small Business Saturday. Spend that money with a local business, here’s a link so that you have no excuse for finding a shop. Buying your gifts from a small business could mean the survival of a local entrepreneur through an economically disastrous global pandemic. Let’s keep the support rolling year round and watch small communities begin to evolve.
(Shameless plug: False Ego is a black owned small business, and support in any form would go a long way.)
Photo credit: "Shop Small" by Bob Doran; "Black Friday" by Powhusku; "Small Business Saturday, after Edward Hopper" by Mike Licht; "Local market, local business" by La Citta Vita; "Growth" by blue_quartz