Thinking small for holidays could make a big difference

Matt Varilek
Matt Varilek

The old adage “small business is big business” holds true in Colorado. With more than 550,000 small firms that employ nearly 50 percent of all employees, a robust small business sector drives the state economy.

Most small retailers generate 50 percent or more of their annual revenues during the key holiday shopping months of November and December. The critical four days following Thanksgiving can make or break a small retailer if sales don’t meet expectations.

The U.S. Small Business Administration serves as an advocate for small business retailers in Colorado, and we think they deserve special attention this holiday shopping season.

Colorado is filled with dynamic and innovative small business retailers selling everything from boutique fashions to locally grown and sourced food items to sports gear to distinctive regional craft beers. Supporting these locally owned, independent small firms is even more critical given the multiplier effect these businesses have on their local economies and neighboring communities. Studies show that locally owned small businesses spend more money with local vendors, support the local tax base, hire their employees locally and target their charitable donations to nearby organizations. Dollars spent locally tend to have a higher direct economic impact in the city or town in which the business is located.

As one of the largest regions in the United States, SBA Region VIII has very diverse economies ranging from large metropolitan areas in Denver and Salt Lake City to small towns in Montana and Wyoming. Whether your community is large or small, the importance of the holiday shopping season is the same. Last year alone in the days following Thanksgiving, nearly $8 billion was spent with independent merchants across America. For the well-being of our small business neighbors, I’m hopeful this number will rise significantly in 2014.

In addition to patronizing your local small businesses, you can further support these firms with these steps:

Although the trend in retailing is to buy items online, commit to making at least one purchase from a locally owned small business retailer.

Travel outside your comfort zone and away from the big malls and discover that out-of-the-ordinary shopping district that has 10 trendy stores instead of 100 traditional chain stores.

Think outside the big box retailer by purchasing locally made crafts, candles and art. These items make creative gifts and most times are so unique only one exists and the mold has been broken.

If you find a great small business retailer with unique products, share your find with friends on Facebook or Twitter.

Make a game of it by insisting that family members buy gifts from a locally and independently owned small retailer.  When you open your gifts, take a vote on which present was the most distinctive and creative. This can make for great conversation over eggnog.

If you’re a small business owner, get prepared for the holiday shopping onslaught by checking out the online resources offered at the SBA Web site at

I know that my family will be shopping locally at an independently owned small business during this holiday season. Please join me in this holiday shopping experience by supporting our small business friends and neighbors and at the same time helping our communities continue to grow and prosper.