When you think of holiday shopping, you probably think of big box retailers before your neighborhood bookstore or antique store. But in an era of widespread supply chain disruption and inflation, neglected small businesses deserve our attention.
Enter Small Business Saturday.
Small Business Saturday is an annual event created by American Express that encourages consumers to shop at small businesses during the peak holiday season. It takes place on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, which will be on November 27 of this year.
Here’s why you should consider shopping small for the holidays and what to expect.
Businesses need support
The pandemic has hit businesses hard. About 200,000 additional establishments – most of them small – closed permanently between March 2020 and February 2021, according to a report by the Federal Reserve. This is in addition to the pre-pandemic rate of approximately 600,000 annual closures.
Many surviving businesses are still at risk, due to factors such as deferred rent payments and overdue credit card bills. Your patronage might give them a fighting chance.
“I think we have to ask ourselves as consumers, would we be sad if a retailer closed? “ says Lauren Beitelspacher, associate professor and chair of the marketing division at Babson College in Massachusetts. “And if the answer is yes, then we have to find ways to buy and support there when we can.”
Small business shopping and eating on Saturdays is one way to show appreciation for local businesses, especially those we have depended on during the pandemic, Beitelspacher adds.
Do you remember the restaurants where you had take out meals when ordering at home? Or the skin care store that supplied you with hand sanitizer? They were there for us when we needed them; let’s reciprocate.
The dollars you spend on Small Business Saturday make a difference beyond the retail doors. Small businesses create local jobs and pay local taxes, which allows money to flow through communities.
“By shopping at local small businesses, customers can directly support their neighbors and contribute to their local economy,” said Mark Madrid, associate administrator of the Office of Entrepreneurial Development of the US Small Business Administration.
Shopping small for the holidays can also be environmentally friendly. When local businesses source raw materials or manufactured goods locally, it shortens the distance goods travel, says Madhav Durbha, vice president of supply chain strategy at Coupa Software, a platform for expense management for California-based businesses.
“No shipping from all over the world and less packaging for a reduced carbon footprint” said Durbha.
Persistent supply chain issues and inflation mean shoppers are likely to see less inventory and higher prices this holiday shopping season.
“It’s basic economics, isn’t it?” The supply is going to be lower, and therefore the demand is going to be higher, and therefore the prices are not going to go down like they have in the past. I’m not saying there won’t be offers, but maybe they won’t be offers on the most popular items we want ”, said Beitelspacher.
The flashy door-to-door deals that large retailers traditionally display during the holiday sales might be harder to find. Buyers can expect sold out items and shipping delays in categories such as toys, luxury goods and consumer electronics, says Durbha.
Small business Saturday shoppers might do better, depending on what they’re looking for.
Stores that sell second-hand goods or items produced in the same community will be protected from much of the supply chain disruption, Durbha said.
Shopping small for the holidays also has other advantages.
Buyers may receive more personalized service and encounter smaller crowds.
Many small businesses also attract customers with exclusive discounts, promotions, or small business Saturday giveaways. So it is always possible to save money.
Buy from Target, Walmart, or Best Buy and you will find little variation in their product selection.
“If you go to a big brand name store, you can find this (inventory) in a thousand stores. But if you go to a small local business you can find something very special and very unique for the holiday season, ” said Durbha.
Maybe it’s handcrafted jewelry, a print made by a local artist, a vintage record player, or a gift card to the best bakery in town. Check out the interesting, rare or unique gifts you can discover on Small Business Saturdays.
Check the websites and social media pages of your favorite local retailers for store deals, times and event announcements.