Beyond Small Business Saturday

Why Locally Owned Businesses Deserve Our
Support Beyond Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday was launched in 2010 by American Express in the wake of the 2008 recession in the hope of boosting local economies. In 2011, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution to support Small Business Saturday, and the celebration has since become an annual shopping tradition on the Saturday following Thanksgiving.

Americans are voting with their dollars. Sandwiched between the frenzy-inducing duo of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday has quietly become a force. Picturing locals strolling and shopping on a Saturday is a much more pleasant prospect than the lines and brawls that have come to characterize Black Friday.

American consumers reported spending an estimated $17.8 billion at small businesses on November 24th of this year, according to a new survey of close to 2,500 adults conducted by advisory firm Teneo on behalf of American Express and the National Federation of Independent Business. This easily topped last year’s total of $12.9 billion and 2016’s record of $15 billion.

The sales are not huge in the scheme of things—Black Friday pulled in a record $6.22 billion in online sales (according to Adobe Analytics), with $2 billion of these revenues from smartphones. This was a 23.6 percent jump from a year ago. And Cyber Monday was the biggest sales day of the year with online revenues of $7.9 billion, an increase of 19.3 percent over 2017.   Amazon issued a statement saying it sold more items on Cyber Monday of this year than any other day in its history including Prime Day 2018, although it didn’t provide specific sales figures.

But as malls, department stores and chain retailers become online roadkill—more than 19 chains have filed for bankruptcy in 2017—local, independent merchants are seeing opportunity.

Glass Half Full

In a national survey of more than 850 independent retailers by Advocates for Independent Business, two-thirds report that, despite their smaller size, they are responding to the profound shifts in the retail industry as well as or better than competing national chains are. They credit their resilience to their deep expertise, personalized service, community involvement and rewarding in-store experience. Those factors have helped fuel a resurgence of independent sellers of books, toys and records.

That said, indie retailers acknowledge the long shadow of Amazon. A full 90% of respondents say the online behemoth is having a negative impact on their business. And they worry that, even if their stores are doing well, more vacancies created by failing chains and department stores could have a snowball effect, lessening foot traffic to shopping areas and sending more consumers online.

So, while a holiday dedicated to small businesses is nice, local retailers need our year-round support. Here are just some of the benefits of locally-owned businesses:

They support your kids’ schools and your garbage collection

Small business owners don’t have hordes of tax lawyers setting up offshore bank accounts or exploiting loopholes, so they pay taxes. One study found that, while a county earns just $7.11 in property taxes per acre on a typical big-box retail store, it earns $287.55 per acre on a mixed-use, mid-rise Main Street-style business district. And of course, many online retailers skimp on or skirt taxes altogether. Amazon has paid an average of just 13% for federal, state, local and foreign taxes from 2007 to 2015, according to the New York Times.

They keep money circulating locally

Local businesses donate to local causes and often buy goods and services from other local businesses, in contrast to the centrally managed procurement of many big box stores and chains. For these and other reasons, a dollar spent at a locally-owned business generates on average three times the local economic activity than a dollar spent at a non-local store.

Studies also link the presence of a mix of locally-owned businesses with job creation and greater economic vitality. The “bigs” do employ local people but recent research tells a different story. For every $10 million spent for products from Amazon, only 14 jobs are created. The same amount spent at local, independent, “brick-and-mortar” businesses would create 57 jobs. And small businesses account for 65 percent of all new jobs. Independent restaurants return two times more than chain restaurants to local economies.

They have the ability to customize their products and services for the Amarillo market

Large corporations often have a lot of red tape and tiers of buy-in to get through before launching new products or services and making improvements in answer to customer feedback. In contrast, with their simple management structure that allows for fast approval, mom and pop businesses can respond to market demand and customer needs more quickly.

And with no messy hierarchy and bureaucracy to navigate, mom and pop businesses can more adeptly cater to special requests from customers and offer more than customers are expecting. With their quick decision-making capabilities, mom and pop businesses are well positioned to nurture customer loyalty, earn repeat business and gain referrals.

They give our communities soul

Most tangibly, local businesses lend neighborhoods their distinct personalities, provide a place for social interactions, and generally make their communities more desirable places to live. (There is dark irony in the fact that Amazon, which has put the squeeze on small businesses everywhere, cites “community and quality of life” among the criteria for its tax-subsidized second headquarters).  Towns across America have similar chain restaurants, grocery and department stores but that diner down the street where you have breakfast every Saturday morning is one-of-a-kind. The combined presence of Amarillo’s many local businesses makes it different from every other city in the world. By supporting those businesses instead of chains, you ensure that our uniqueness is preserved.

It’s nice to have a national push of local business partronage with Small Business Saturday or a “Shop Small” or “Buy Local” marketing campaign but it takes the individuals in our community to make the effort to keep their dollars in Amarillo and Think Local throughout the year.