Go big — shop small

Tony Gagliardi NFIB
Tony Gagliardi NFIB

On second thought, maybe promoting Small Business Saturday on Nov. 24 might do more harm than good. Harm in the discomfort it could cause people not used to dealing with human beings when making a purchase, asking about a product, or, heaven forbid, coming across someone they know in a Main Street shop. What to say? Hi? Nice to see you? Alexa! Help!

The numbers grow more astounding each year. “Facebook … saw nearly 19 million users engage in roughly 40 million interactions related to holiday shopping during the first week of November,” reports Digital News Daily. “… eMarketer recently predicted  U.S. holiday shoppers will spend north of $1 trillion.”

According to Connected Thinking, analyzing a study by Citi Retail Services, “Millennials are at the forefront of a shift in the path to purchase … with 60 percent of them planning to use their laptops or PCs for holiday shopping, 55 percent planning to use a mobile device and 17 percent planning to use voice assistants.”

To be certain, the internet has been a boon to many small business owners and their customers as well. But what Small Business Saturday offers —for one day, at least — is a reminder of the many delights of human interaction.

Stepping into Benge’s Shoe Store in Grand Junction, located on an actual Main Street, is a journey into history. It’s been there for 100 years, and you might meet Bruce Benge, whose knowledge of shoes and the shoe business — it’s a safe bet — can’t be matched by a chain store.

Also proudly Coloradan and rooted in Main Street values is Enstrom Toffee, which has expanded to eight locations throughout the state and become world famous for its toffee. That it has never forgotten where it came from and how it started can be heard from the enthusiastic staff delighted to share the company’s story.

Small business still holds its own against the big box, big mall and online behemoths. According to the Citi Retail Services study, 73 percent of consumers plan to visit a brick-and-mortar store and make a purchase. Last year, shoppers spent nearly $13 billion at small, independent stores and restaurants the Saturday after Thanksgiving, according to a survey conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business and American Express. And 90 percent of consumers surveyed said Small Business Saturday has a positive impact on their communities.

Summarizing numerous studies on the multiplier effect of small businesses, the American Independent Business Alliance said: “On average, 48 percent of each purchase at local independent businesses was recirculated locally, compared to less than 14 percent of purchases at chain stores.”

But numbers alone can’t convey what’s special about Small Business Saturday. What makes the day special is its way to honor the small business owners who do so much for their communities, gave most of us our first job, give someone a second chance a corporation wouldn’t let through its lobby, know their employees by name, make special accommodations for their workers, donate Little League uniforms, sit on the boards of community charities and help their local schools. This Nov. 24, you can do big by shopping small.

Tony Gagliardi is Colorado state director for the National Federation of Independent Business. The NFIB advocates on behalf of small business owners in Washington, D.C., and all 50 state capitals. For more information, visit www.nfib.com.