Shop Small to find unique things, while supporting your local economy
In the 1920s and 1930s, cities and towns from the Appalachians to the Pacific Northwest had a busy shopping district, with independently owned businesses like shoes stores, clothing stores, jewelers, barbershops and other establishments serving the locals.
A couple decades later, in the 1950s, the interstate highway system routed traffic away from downtown America, which led to the construction of shopping malls near exit ramps. This drained the commerce from downtowns. In the last 15 years, the explosion of e-commerce hurt shopping malls and big box stores the way highways harmed small-town shopping districts.
Small Business Saturday, launched in November of 2010, has become a great way to support small business owners in your local town or neighborhood. The “Shop Small” program supports local economies and promotes vibrant, diverse communities, but there are other practical reasons to shop locally every day, not just on Small Business Saturday:
1) Small businesses give back to the community
When you spend money in your neighborhood, your sales tax stays in your neighborhood. You help fund public education, parks, and street improvements, not to mention vital services like firefighting and mosquito control.
2) Local store owners create local jobs
The Small Business Administration reports that local businesses added 8 million jobs to the American economy since 1990 while the expansion of large chains reduced jobs by 4 million.
3) Local owners buy local services themselves
Independent local businesses go into their local community to buy the supporting services they need, including architects, designers, cabinet shops, sign makers and contractors for construction and accountants and lawyers to keep themselves operating within the guardrails.
4) Local establishments provide great customer service
Business owners rely on great customer service to build a loyal customer base, so it is comforting to know you will be shopping in a store that is genuinely happy to assist you.
5) Small businesses create a sense of community
Human beings seek a feeling of belonging and familiarity in the towns in which they live. It is only natural to seek connections with those we share our neighborhoods with. It’s always a comforting feeling to see that poster of the local Little League team in the coffee shop window.
6) It feels good to help neighbors and friends succeed
There’s something special about knowing the owner of the store when you walk in. You can ask about family, congratulate them on their anniversary, and feel the comfort of familiarity.
7) It’s about preserving the community
The American Independent Business Alliance has another great reason to shop locally: “The disappearance of local businesses leaves a social and economic void that is palpable and real — even when it goes unmeasured,” AIBA says. “A community’s quality of life changes in ways that macroeconomics is slow to measure, or ignores completely.”
We hope you’ll shop locally year-round, as well as on Small Business Saturday, and when you’re visiting those businesses, make sure to thank the owner for keeping his or her doors open. After all, small businesses are what built America, one neighborhood at a time.
John is a guest blogger for Our Town America and previously worked in national sales at our Clearwater, FL corporate headquarters.