Shopping small gets bigger

OPB photo


This year, more than 350 small retailers participated through NFIB and thousands more with American Express, who provided a $10 statement credit for shopping at participating retailers (down from a $25 statement credit last year). Almost 70 percent of registered retailers provided additional discounts for the new American shopping holiday.

“I feel like the American Express kickback is less and less important, although I certainly appreciate American Express’s promotion of the day,” said Sisson. “I think people just are getting the message about the importance of shopping small business.”

Consumers often cite better customer service, a warmer environment and higher-quality products as reasons to shop small. Additionally, there may be a karmic benefit to buying locally. According to NFIB, more than 
90 percent of small business owners “pay it forward” each year, either by volunteering, in-kind contributions, or direct cash donations.

“I like the feel of communities that are full of small businesses; I feel like they have more character, individuality and community spirit,” said local resident Rebecca Wiglama. “I also think it’s a good idea to keep money in the local economy, where it is more likely to benefit your community.”

Many shoppers feel the same: that buying locally helps their neighbors and their community. Earlier this year, a Gallup poll found that of all American institutions (including government), consumers have the second most confidence in American small business, topped only by the U.S. Military. That feeling isn’t just a whim; two-thirds of the country’s net jobs are created by small business, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. Additionally, small businesses are responsible for more than half the nation’s GDP.

Even President Barack Obama got into the small business action of this past weekend, as he has during the previous three years. The President bought 21 books at a local bookstore in Northwest Washington D.C. called Politics & Prose.

Still, not everyone is singing the praises of this manufactured holiday.

“We probably had less people come in this [Small Business] Saturday than our usual Saturday,” said LaLonnie Walker, of Nest Vintage home decor and furniture in Battle Ground.

Walker was disappointed after promoting the “shop local” movement and Small Business Saturday on Facebook. But her store – and many other small businesses – didn’t run any specials because of a mechanical glitch.

“We were not registered with American Express because our credit card machine won’t run American Express. So, we weren’t able to sign-up or get anyone those deals.”

Despite a few kinks being worked out of the infant holiday, Small Business Saturday continues to pack an ever-growing punch. Business organizations such as the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce and Vancouver’s Downtown Association increased their efforts this year to promote the event locally. Small Business Saturday has even spread globally, reaching the UK, Australia, Israel, South Africa and Asia.

To put it in terms that American Express might use:

Number of “likes” on the official Facebook page of Small Business Saturday: 3.3 million. Number of free online tools accessed by small business owners to spread the word about the new holiday: 346,000. Helping small business owners and their communities worldwide: Priceless.

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