All day today.
Small businesses in your town.
Last year, American Express began what it hopes will become yet another post-Thanksgiving event in the way Black Friday and Cyber Monday are.
Holiday shoppers are encouraged to shop at small, locally owned, independent businesses on Saturday. And of course, American Express is encouraging those shoppers to use their American Express cards to do so.
The rationale is sound for supporting your local, independently-owned businesses. For every $100 you spend, because of of taxes, payroll, and other expenditures:
$68 comes back when shopping at local independent businesses
$43 comes back to your community when shopping at big box stores
$0 comes back to your community when you shop at large, out-of-state, online retailers
When you shop locally - you are investing in your own community.
And this year, there have been a lot of politicians, both local and national, and numerous pundits both right and left, that have jumped on board to endorse and promote this event.
And yes, if shoppers descend upon locally owned, independent businesses with the same amount of money and vigor they had when they flowed into big box stores on Black Friday, it would go a long way in helping many small businesses.
But please keep in mind a few things:
1. The politicians calling to support our small businesses have done very little in the past year to actually help those small businesses.
On the local level, city leaders are still more interested in giving large tax breaks and special treatment to big box stores to come in to our communities which will, thanks largely to an unlevel playing field, destroy many of our small businesses.
On the national level, the federal government has done very little to stimulate consumer spending, very little to encourage job growth, and has done very little in revising oversight and regulation of the financial industry which includes credit card companies like American Express.
Politicians on the left and right love to tout the importance of small businesses to our economy. However, it's the large corporate lobbyists who are getting these politicians to pass legislation. So, until we see pro-small business legislation and policies passed, it's all just hollow, political lip service.
2. If American Express really wanted to support local businesses, it could also reduce the rates it charges businesses to take those cards. Right now, their rates are much higher than any other credit card company.
3. One purchase at a small business is not going to save locally-owned retail. Sure it will help, but in order for small business to survive - we need to make every day Small Business day. It needs to be a sustained habit.
I don't mean you need to do holiday level shopping every day, but we need to take our shopping to small businesses first (Let's call this movement Small Business First). Then, when you can't find what you need, go elsewhere. But right now, too many of us use large corporate big box stores as our go-to stores first and shop locally only as a lark. And that doesn't help our communities.
Enjoy Small Business Saturday, but please do so knowing this is only the beginning of what needs to be done if we are going to democratize businesses and shopping in America and free our businesses and shopping from the tyranny of Big Box Corporate and Online Retail.
Despite what the American Express commercials say, it's going to take more than 1 purchase. So if you have fun, if you enjoy the experience, consider making it a regular experience. You should feel better knowing you aren't just supporting your community by keeping more money there, but in many cases, you're helping your friends and neighbors by shopping at their businesses. It truly is a remarkable thing.
And finally, when we compare the nature of the types of businesses we're looking at, let's compare the ads for Small Business Saturday with the Black Friday ads Wal-Mart was running.
Small Business Saturday is basically pleading for one purchase at a small business. Wal-Mart is insisting that their store is the only place you need to go on Black Friday. The attitudes conveyed in those commercials reveal the character and nature of the type of retail we're talking about here. Small businesses are simply trying to find a foothold to live in. Wal-Mart wants to replace everything.
So please, shop local. Shop small. But remember to do this after this Saturday. Do it whenever you can. It's better for you, it's better for all of us. And really, it's just more satisfying.
And here's a great Small Business Shopper's guide from 1307 Park. (And yes, I am biased.)