After the retail insanity of Black Friday, consider checking out locally-owned companies on Saturday, Nov. 24. It's Small Business Saturday, created by American Express in 2010 to celebrate and support small stores and services nationwide on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
It seems a bit odd to me that a huge corporation like American Express, national companies like FedEx Office and the US Postal Service, and social media like Twitter and Foursquare are actively supporting the fourth annual Small Business Saturday -- but they are.
"Small businesses are the heartbeat of our community," according to AmericanExpress.com. "They're the corner stones that create jobs. The hardware stores that help build our economy. And the mom and pop shops whose very presence makes a neighborhood, your neighborhood."
How can you get involved? And why?
Well, how is relatively easy. On Nov. 24, drop into a locally-owned store, nibble on a cupcake from a local bakery or have lunch at a small eatery.
As for why, here are 10 reasons it's a good idea to shop small.
1. More money stays in the area
Local businesses buy from other local businesses and service providers, nurturing the local economy and turning the dollars you spend into a boost to the local economy. Metro Family Magazine estimates that for every $100 spent at a locally-owned business, $73 remains in the local economy and $27 leaves; for a non-locally-owned business, $43 remains in the local economy and $57 leaves.
2. More jobs
Small businesses make up 99.7 percent of US firms that employ workers, and created 64% of the net private-sector jobs between 1993 and 2011, or 11.8 million out of 18.5 million jobs, according to the Small Business Administration. In particular, buying locally-made products creates more local jobs. And in the past 20 years, sales for the 500 largest corporations rose 700%, but even with these record profits those companies are now firing more people than they hire, according to eLocal.com.
3. Better customer service
Small businesses often hire people with a better understanding of the products they are selling, and take more time to get to know their customers. Some specialize in one-of-a-kind or hard-to-find products, and offer personal attention paired with product knowledge and expertise.
4. Diverse products
Big box stores tend to offer similar or exactly-the-same items as all the other big box stores. Small neighborhood shops are much more likely to contain unique, locally-crafted or unusual items. Shopping for gifts in a small local shop offers more possibilities to find something different, something the person might not expect but will love -- and makes it less likely that your gift will be a cookie-cutter version of every other gift.
5. Supporting the community
Small business owners are more likely to provide financial and other support to local nonprofit organizations, schools and community groups than large chain operations. Throughout the US, only about 33.6% of revenue from national chains is reinvested into the community, compared to 64.8% return from local businesses, according to eLocal.com. And community support is frequently more than just money. Small retailers are more likely than large stores to stock locally-manufactured products. Small cafes or restaurants often display work by local artists, serve locally-baked goods or host open-mic nights for local musicians -- things that large chain operations typically don't do.
6. More character
This one is a bit subjective, but there's a tendency for every town or city nationwide to look just like every other town or city, with the same identical big-box stores offering pretty much the same inventory in each location. Small businesses create more of a customized and unique feeling in a neighborhood. Supporting those businesses helps preserve that unique identity and sense of place.
7. Better for the environment
Many small businesses are located in a town or city center as opposed to sprawled out on the periphery, requiring less transportation energy, and less habitat loss and pollution. Many small businesses also recycle as much as possible, and take steps to make their operations sustainable and environmentally friendly.
8. Fresher food
Most US produce is picked four to seven days before it reaches supermarket shelves, and is shipping for an average of 1,500 miles before being sold, according to LocalHarvest.org -- and produce from outside the US will travel even farther and make take even longer before reaching consumers. Local markets and restaurants are more likely to buy closer to home -- watch for store signs and menu notes highlighting locally-sourced food.
9. Special Nov. 24 sales, promotions
Many small businesses are offering Small Business Saturday sales and events -- and it can be a great time to cash-in on local coupons.
10. The idea is spreading
Individual stores or cities are scheduling "small business" days throughout the year, and Britain now holds a Small Business Saturday as well. On social media sites like Twitter, #SmallBizSaturday is often used to promote shopping locally.
Small Business Saturday on Nov. 24 isn't the only way or day to support your local business community, but it's a good place to start.