As we embark upon another holiday shopping season, we here at the Town-Crier once again remind everyone to make an effort to shop local. Across the nation, there has been a push to make the day after Black Friday known as “Small Business Saturday.” This is certainly a nice effort, but local retailers and service providers deserve and require more than just one day’s afterthought during the busiest shopping season of the year.
One of the most amazing ironies in the business world is that Small Business Saturday — the annual post-Black Friday marketing pitch aimed at convincing shoppers old and young to focus on local businesses rather than the megastores and national chain stores for at least one day during the holiday season — was created by American Express for a host of marketing reasons in 2009.
Based on data from the Office of Advocacy’s Small Business Profiles, which are annual analyses of each state’s small business activities that gather the latest information from key federal data-gathering agencies to provide a snapshot of small business health and economic activity, there are 2.4 million small businesses operating within Florida, which make up the vast majority of all businesses in the state. In fact, nearly 43 percent of all Florida employees work for a “small business,” defined as 500 or fewer employees.
Because it was an American Express marketing idea, some view Small Business Saturday as just another public relations ploy for the financial giant. And yes, it is a blatant marketing effort. But such marketing isn’t all bad; it can be (and often is) a vehicle for good, bringing attention to worthy charities, nonprofits and social issues. In fact, Small Business Saturday has become a boon for smaller retailers.
As the effort has grown, many people don’t even associate Small Business Saturday with American Express anymore. This includes the federal government; the Small Business Administration’s web site about Small Business Saturday makes no mention of how the “holiday” got its start. Instead, it frames this weekend as many see it: as a day to celebrate and support small businesses and all they do for their communities.
Area residents and businesses see this Saturday as a grassroots effort to promote local small businesses every year at this time, because they are such a key part of the local community fabric. It allows us to support businesses owned by people in the community who are often active in other initiatives that enhance the lives of their fellow residents.
Not every neighborhood is lucky enough to have a downtown retail center, but there are plenty of shops in the western communities that provide the cozy, local feel when shopping. And while many pay lip service to shopping locally, some people forget that a retail business district needs community support. Without support, small businesses struggle to survive.
Yes, there’s competition from national retailers, not to mention the attraction of online shopping. And there’s nothing wrong with spending money at the regional shopping malls and big box stores; there are some things you can only find there. It’s also hard to ignore the convenience of online shopping. But… remember how many bookstores there were before Amazon?
We at the Town-Crier support shopping at small, local independent businesses. If you’re unsure of where to turn for help in identifying such stores, we encourage you to check out the local chambers of commerce, such as the Wellington Chamber of Commerce (www.wellingtonchamber.com) and the Central Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce (www.cpbchamber.com), as well as the pages of this newspaper. There you will find plenty of ideas to help the local business owners among us — on Small Business Saturday, and every other day of the year as well.