First there was Black Friday, then came Cyber Monday - both with the goal of kicking off the Christmas shopping season. Now, though, there is a season-opening shopping promotion with a healthier focus and more of a community orientation: Small Business Saturday, this year Nov. 24.
Black Friday is so named because it is supposed to begin the season in which retailers make their profit, traditionally recorded in black ink. It began as the Friday after Thanksgiving Day but has now crept back into the holiday itself. A number of national retailers opened as early as 8 p.m. on Thursday and plan to stay open until late today. Consumers line up early in the hope of getting good deals on merchandise discounted for the event.
Of course, all retailers hope to profit from Christmas sales. But the real focus of Black Friday has become big box stores and national chains. Those benefit the economies of small towns primarily through sales tax payments. Profits go elsewhere.
Cyber Monday is worse. A marketing term for the first Monday after Thanksgiving, the idea is to encourage consumers to shop online by offering discounts and special deals through Internet retailers. But with online purchases there is often no sales tax paid to local governments, no local jobs outside of FedEx and UPS, and the profit goes who knows where.
With all that in mind, American Express came up with the idea of Small Business Saturday to encourage shoppers to support small, local businesses. Coming between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it too is meant to launch the Christmas season, but with an emphasis on brick and mortar stores in the community.
The point, of course, is to support our friends and neighbors and ourselves. Shopping at local small businesses keeps more of our money in our community, both through sales tax revenue that funds the programs and projects that benefit us and through the wages paid and local spending generated by those businesses.
Of course, many local retailers offer season-opening sales just like the big boxes, so consumers can benefit as well. And as part of its promotion of the day, American Express is offering its card holders incentives to participate. (See: www.shopsmall.com.)
But the real gain is for the community. U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, chairs the House Small Business Subcommittee on Energy, Agriculture and Trade and is a cosponsor of a House Resolution in support of Small Business Saturday. The owner of a small business himself, he put it this way:
Small businesses are responsible for the creation of seven out of 10 new jobs (on average) in this country, and are vital to our economic recovery. Small Business Saturday is a great way to get a jump on holiday shopping while supporting those community businesses, stimulating the local economy, and strengthening Main Street.
The Small Business Administration also supports the idea. In urging participation, SBA Administrator Karen Mills, writes that more than 100 million people were part of Small Business Saturday last year.
Explaining her support, she said, By shopping small, we can help Americas small businesses do what they do best: grow their businesses, create good jobs, and ensure our communities are vibrant.
Enjoy the good service and better feeling of shopping small.