Everyone is familiar with Black Friday, the post-Thanksgiving gift shopping frenzy, when masses of people converge on shopping malls, raising their stress levels and blood pressure. But if you were to save some of your holiday shopping and energy for Small Business Saturday, you would be doing much more not only for your own health, but also for our state's economy.
Begun in 2010, the campaign to shop small has yielded big dividends for America's and Washington state's economy. Last year, shoppers spent $5.7 billion at locally-owned shops and restaurants on Small Business Saturday, according to a survey conducted by American Express and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). And last year's total marked a 3.6 percent increase over the previous year.
This same survey indicates that on average, shoppers estimate nearly one-third of their holiday shopping will be done at small businesses. Additional benefits to shopping Main Street speak to the importance of community:
Nearly all (94 percent) of U.S. consumers say that shopping at small businesses make them "feel good"
Two-thirds (66 percent) of consumers say the main reason they patronize small businesses is because they value the contributions the business makes to their community
More than half (57 percent) say they know one or more of their local small-business owners personally
Small business is no small statistic when it comes to job creation. In fact, it's primary to any economy.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy, Washington's small businesses employed over half - or 1.2 million - of the state's private workforce in 2011. Almost all firms with employees are small. They make up 98 percent of all employers in the state.
Need even more good reasons to choose Main Street?
Your money stays local. When you shop at a chain store, most of the money goes back to a corporate office, but when you shop on Main Street, most of that money stays on Main Street.
Your shopping experience is friendlier and more customer oriented. Instead of dealing with temporary workers who don't know the merchandise, there's a good chance you'll be dealing directly with the owner - someone who cares very much about making you a return customer. In fact, according to the NFIB and American Express survey, 77 percent of consumers say Small Business Saturday makes them want to shop small all year long.
You help small businesses plant lasting roots in your community. Some small-business owners cut their own salaries to keep their full complement of employees. Others have dipped into savings or taken out second mortgages to keep their doors open, or to avoid cutting back employee hours. Shopping local infuses these businesses with cash to keep their doors open.
Of course big box stores stock items that Main Street shops don't, but you might be surprised at the variety of items that Main Street stores provide.
So how about starting a new shopping tradition this year? Don't go all out on Black Friday. Spread the holiday cheer by shopping small on Main Street on Small Business Saturday. This new trend will benefit everyone.
Editor's Note: Jay Inslee is governor of the state of Washington. Patrick Connor is Washington state director for the National Federation of Independent Business.