I’m no Scrooge, but I usually don’t like Christmas shopping. I love buying things for people, but I don’t like the lines or the generic merchandise they stock at the chain stores.
That’s why I like Small Business Saturday in Spruce Pine, Bakersville, and even Penland, along with the pleasant hellos from someone I haven’t seen lately and personal advice they are always happy to provide.
Small Business Saturday, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, is the opposite of Black Friday.
Black Friday, of course, is the unofficial start of the holiday season, although it seems Black Friday sales start the second the last trick-or-treater leaves the porch. Black Friday is all about moving merchandise. Stores open early and close late. People fight crowds and stand in line to save a few bucks on slow-cookers and smart TVs. Black Friday is noisy and stressful.
Small Business Saturday, on the other hand, is about supporting our friends and neighbors. It means having a cup of coffee or sandwich at the local coffee shop with someone you haven’t seen in a while and talking about how their children and grandchildren are doing. It’s about buying gifts and enjoying meals at one of the new local restaurants while listening to Christmas music on WTOE.
Small Business Saturday began as a sales promotion 10 years ago to help independent businesses that make up most of our stores in Mitchell County bruised by the Great Recession. In the decade since, it has become one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
According to American Express and my association, NFIB, Americans spent a record $17.8 billion this past year on Small Business Saturday. True, shoppers did spend more on Black Friday, but they spent twice as much on Small Business Saturday when compared to Thanksgiving weekend’s other big shopping day, Cyber Monday.
Small Business Saturday isn’t just about spending money at brick-and-mortar stores; 42 percent of people who said they went out this past year on Small Business Saturday said they spent part of the day shopping small online, too.
When you shop at a national chain, most of the money goes out of town to some corporate headquarters. When you buy local, 67 cents of every dollar stays in the community, according to a study by American Express. When all the local merchants are decorating their businesses for each holiday and supporting Mitchell High’s athletic teams and local school events, you are not going to see that at the big box retailers. What’s more, every dollar spent at a small business generates another 50 cents in local business activity. That includes things such as workers buying groceries for their families or owners buying supplies for their businesses.
Best of all, Small Business Saturday gives independent shops and businesses a chance to catch up with old friends and introduce themselves to holiday shoppers who might become regular customers. Indeed, the American Express/NFIB survey said 96 percent of shoppers who went out last year on Small Business Saturday said the day made them want to shop small all year.
Small businesses account for 99.6 percent of all businesses in North Carolina, and they employ about 44 percent of the state’s workforce, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. Small businesses create jobs and bring our communities together. That’s why I’m encouraging everyone to shop at our independent stores and try the local restaurants on Small Business Saturday.
I believe when we support small businesses in Mitchell County, we help every county resident.
Gregg Thompson is the state director of NFIB. He lives in Raleigh.