Small Businesses Are Supporting Local Economies By Colin Anderson
Much has been made about how convenient online shopping has become. Two-day delivery, same-day delivery, completely free shipping—and all of it available with the click of a button from your couch, office or car. The food industry is also cashing in on consumers leading busy lives with portioned boxes of food and easy-to-follow recipes for a quick dinner. Major grocery chains will do the shopping for you as you buy your food online and pick up your pre-bagged groceries curbside without ever having to push the cart. All signs point to more and more consumers making their purchases from home instead of in-person. While convenience and time saving are some of the most common reasons for online shopping, often overlooked is the rather large impact online purchasing can have not just on local businesses but the entire community.
Small and mid-sized businesses are the backbone of just about every community across the country. They are owned and operated by friends and neighbors and also employ friends and neighbors. Small businesses are not beholden to shareholders whose interests are mainly in profitability; rather they can choose to reinvest their earnings into all sorts of areas of benefit to the community.
By purchasing household items or gifts, or choosing your lunch or dinner destination, at a locally owned business, you are choosing to help job growth in your community. As small business grows, they inevitably need more help, thus more employees are hired. Expansion and growth can also lead to promotions from within that include higher wages and benefits. Employees who make more are able to spend more, and often those funds can go right back into the local business. While it’s never fun losing a reliable employee, young entrepreneurs who cut their teeth at a small business and learn how it’s run have a heads up on starting their own business when compared to someone working for a larger corporation or retailer. Employees feel more invested in a small to mid-sized community business and are more willing to bring solutions to their employers or create new products and ideas.
Just opening the doors to a new business has a major impact on communities. The storefront needs to be designed and constructed, marketing and advertising experts are brought in, items are delivered to the store or restaurant, all of which generally come from additional local businesses. While corporations and big box stores generously donate to large national organizations, local business owners tend to focus on organizations and groups that directly impact their employees and the community around them. Buying youth sports jerseys, holding a fundraiser for an employee’s family member who has fallen ill, sponsoring annual fairs, community theaters, and donations of goods or services to charitable events all come from generous small-business owners. When your dollar is spent inside a small business, it is much more likely to stay in the local community rather than make its way to corporate headquarters far away. Successful businesses pay local taxes which, in turn, fund police, fire and education. A thriving downtown scene often brings in out-of-town visitors, and well-regarded communities can see their property values increase when local businesses are thriving.
Generally speaking, the closer to home you make a purchase the less of an impact that purchase has on the environment. Foreign goods are shipped by boat, plane or train and often transported several more times via truck until they reach a warehouse or storefront. That locally made barbecue sauce, scarf, wall art or furniture didn’t make near the trek, often being created on-site or within a short drive of the storefront. Restaurants that utilize locally sourced grains, meats and produce also recognize these products are not only fresher but also lessen their carbon footprint as well.
In 2010, American Express launched Small Business Saturday on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The country was coming out of one of the worst economic recessions in history, and the effort was meant to encourage people to continue to support struggling small businesses by doing their holiday shopping in person instead of online. Coming into its 10th year, the ‘Shop Small’ movement continues to see massive growth despite ultra convenient online shopping. According to American Express, in 2018, U.S. consumers reported spending a record high of an estimated $17.8 billion at independent retailers and restaurants on Small Business Saturday. Over the years, Small Business Saturday spending has now reached a reported estimate of $103 billion since the day began in 2010—that’s $103 billion over nine days alone. The company also reported 96 percent of consumers who reported shopping on Small Business Saturday said the day makes them want to ‘Shop Small’ all year long, not just during the holiday season.
There are many ways to spend your hard-earned dollars this holiday season. Consider taking a day to visit some of the various local storefronts in your community when searching for those unique gifts. Your purchase helps create jobs, fund local services, bring care to those in need, and improve the vitality and feel of your community. Small Business Saturday is November 30, but you can also choose to make it more than just one day each year.