Americans spend over 11 billion dollars on Black Friday each year, mainly at large “big box” retailers like Walmart and Target. Yet a new movement, Small Business Saturday, is trying to get a chunk of that change for local businesses. Started by American Express, Small Business Saturday, drives shoppers away from national chains and down to wonderful shopkeepers on mainstreets across the country. If you are one of the 57% of shoppers who actually find Black Friday enjoyable, here are five reasons to consider waiting a day this year and shopping closer to home instead.
1. Avoid lines, crowds, and homicide: Black Friday, is a holiday so crazy that OSHA has issued safety guidelines for retailers. Anyone who has had the misfortune of shopping on this day of consumerist excess knows that a large percentage of the experience is not actually spent shopping but navigating your way through other shoppers to actually purchase something. Every year we are regaled by tales of people who pepper spray, brawl, even shoot each over ferbies or flat screen TVs. Compare that to fun events like Plaid Friday, an initiative in Oakland, CA that wants to take back the Friday after Thanksgiving to be a time to pleasurably and leisurely shop with friends and neighbors at local stores. Shopping local isn’t just more pleasant, it’s also less likely to get you punched by a woman overly eager for the cut-rate deal on a talking picture frame.
2. Keep money in your community: Research from the American Independent Business Alliance found that “for each dollar you spend at independent businesses returns 3 times more money to your local economy than one spent at a chain.” As this infographic from Small Business Saturday adeptly displays, spending money locally is more likely to return back to you and your community.
3. Find unique gifts: Whether it is a handmade bowl or a fuzzy pairs of socks, local stores are sure to impress everyone on your shopping list. As we’ve seen from numerous examples of big box stores stealing designs from local jewelry or home furnishing makers, local artists are often trend setters, creating beautiful pieces far better then what you’ll find at Target. By shopping local you can give gifts that exhibit your town’s quirk.
4. Find what you need: My number one reason why I shop local every Christmas is because it often saves me so much time. I can walk into my local toy store and say I am looking for a gift for a five year old and I want it to be noisy (I know, their parents will hate me), and I walk out moments later with a wrapped gift that is sure to delight. I have a used bookseller who knows my father loves books about the circus and will save any that come his way for me. Instead of spending time looking from aisle to aisle, store to store trying to find the right gift, I have a team of helpful people working in small businesses who can help me find the gifts I need. Shop keepers at local stores aren’t war-weary cashiers hoping to move you along before the crowd gets too irate while waiting in line. They are generally incredibly helpful and can help you find the perfect gift even if you have no idea what exactly you are looking for.
5. Create jobs: Small local businesses are the largest employers nationally and they are less likely to move somewhere else. Supporting small businesses help them stay in business, hire more people, and create conditions for new entrepreneurs to create new local businesses you’ll surely love. As I wrote in an earlier piece on economic gardening, local businesses are often the best catalysts for community development and growth.
If I’m preaching to the choir then maybe this year is time for you to think about how you convince others to shop local. Get involved with a local business alliance or Main Street campaign to help raise awareness and convince others in the community to make the switch from Black Friday big retailers to Small Business Saturday shops. Year to year sales increase when communities invest in buy local public awareness campaigns. If you don’t have an established organization or are just looking for something small to do then just get a group of your friends to go down to your local shopping district and thank people for buying local. It’s amazing what a small bit of encouragement can do to get people to continue to buy local and ditch Black Friday once and for all.