Thanksgiving will be here soon, with families and friends across the land enjoying a traditional dinner and sharing pumpkin pie. But for many people, the holiday weekend means something else, too: shopping!
While shoppers anticipate super-sales and deals, businesses large and small count on year-end holiday sales to clear a profit. Black Friday now starts on Thanksgiving Day for many retailers. The Monday following Thanksgiving weekend has come to be known as Cyber Monday, the top day for online sales.
Enter Shop Small, or Small Business Saturday—the Saturday after Thanksgiving when local small businesses invite shoppers to step away from the hoopla and mad rush and into their shops. Those who do will find treasures, gifts, and personal service, all while keeping more of their dollars in the local community. You may not be able to get a 60″ HDTV with all the bells and whistles at an unbelievably low price, but you’ll find great gifts without having to stay up all night. These shopkeepers know their stuff, they know their customers as well, and they’re full of ideas for gifts.
You can find small shops by asking friends and neighbors, checking with your neighborhood association, and checking online. Try entering your zip code at Shop Small in Your Neighborhood from American Express (scroll down the page). Gather your friends and share with them these nine great ways to shop local, shop small on Small Business Saturday.
- Looking for toys? Try a neighborhood-based toy shop. Local toy stores offer charm and service you simply cannot match at a big-box store. In my neighborhood we have one whose owners invite kids into the back room to learn to shoot marbles while the parents shop. These shops are chock-full of blocks and dolls and toy trains for the smaller set, building sets and art supplies, and games, gizmos, and gadgets for all ages (even you). Not sure what to get your nine-year-old nephew? The shopkeepers will be full of suggestions—things they know neighborhood kids love.
- Books on your list? The ease of shopping online may sound seductive, but a good bookstore will allow you to read, ask others what they like, and actually check out all the great art in the picture books. Small bookstores are the true gems of the retail book industry. Not only are they welcoming places with cozy spots to sit in while you make selections, but they have staff that know their stock and pay attention to what people want. They know what books teens love, the best fishing or gardening books, and whether that new cookbook is trendy or traditional.
- Searching for clothes? Whether you want local designer clothes or seek a locally owned shop that carries many brands and styles, a small business to suit your needs is out there. If you find one, ask the shopkeepers for suggestions of other boutiques in your region; they are usually eager to see one another thrive.
- How about some unique gifts? Jewelry, household items, scarves, art, and so much more can be found in small boutiques, antique shops, galleries, and craft sales. Artisans may have their own shop, sell through a collective, or share a sale site throughout the holiday season.
- Have a sports nut, hobbyist, artist, or musician on your shopping list? Almost every community has specialty shops, and many are small businesses. Find local sport shops for soccer, skiing, tennis, bicycling, and more. Art-supply shops, some catering to kids, can be found in most towns, as can guitar shops, DJ equipment, and more for budding musicians. Pass by the national chains and find local pet shops, fabric stores, and comic books.
- Seeking hostess gifts? For all the events you will be attending in December, try locally owned chocolatiers or flower shops. You might also consider the unique items from the shops in item 4, above.
- Dining out? On Small Business Saturday, skip the chains in favor of a neighborhood bistro or locally owned restaurant. Even better if the restaurant features food from local farms or is committed to also buying local for all its supplies and services. Besides, if you dine in your neighborhood, you probably will find familiar faces cooking or serving your dinner.
- Need holiday food? Whether you’re shopping for the perfect pumpkin pie before Thanksgiving or for holiday cookies for later, you can find local and family-owned butchers, grocers, and bakeries serving up outstanding food with personal service. This is also a good time to consider the retail food co-ops in your town. While many grow to be large stores, they are owned by the people in the community who purchase shares and work to keep the shops running. And they are super supporters of locally sourced food.
- Really want to shop online? Find great small shops via Etsy or Storenvy. Find lists of small businesses on Pinterest and Facebook. To keep it local, you can search for people in your town or state. If you find what you love but it’s not local, make sure to buy it from a small business that supports the community they live in.
If you’re wondering whether shopping locally actually helps keep dollars in your town, the answer is yes. Research from the 3/50 project showed that for every $100 spent at a locally owned shop, $68 stayed in the community versus $43 spent at a national chain. Shop employees live, shop, and pay taxes in your area, so in some cases, that percentage can be significantly higher, ranging from 50 to 100 percent in service-based businesses.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner, shop the super-sales at the big stores if you must, but get out and keep your hard-earned money in your own community on Small Business Saturday this November 29. Your neighbors will be glad to see you!
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