Make your way to Main Street and support the local economy, which is hurting more than ever before due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

By Jillian Kramer
Updated November 25, 2020

Small Business Saturday—a day dedicated to supporting small businesses across the country—was founded by a rather large company: In 2010, American Express launched the holiday to help drive customers (and dollars) to small businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, a time of year when many people visit big-box stores and online retailers to purchase their holiday gifts. A year later, the Senate passed a resolution that "supports efforts to encourage consumers to shop locally, and increase awareness of the value of locally owned small businesses and their impact on the U.S. economy." (The same or very similar resolutions are introduced and passed each year; each continues to designate Small Business Saturday as the Saturday after Thanksgiving.) And shopping small has never been more critical than it is right now: In light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, small businesses are closing at an alarming rate; those that are still open are struggling while big-box retailers are seeing record-high sales.

"For so many years—and decades, really—the American retail scene has been dominated by big, national retailers," says Meg Ratner, owner and curator of Double Rainbow, a children's lifestyle and clothing boutique in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Everyone had to have the hot brand of the moment. And while there's still the need and appeal of the national retailers, the mindset of the American consumer really seems to have undertaken a fundamental shift over the last five years or so. Now, shoppers like the discovery of finding something unique, and they like to connect to the maker in a way that makes them feel a part of the story. There's an authenticity in that and an amazing opportunity to create platforms for the makers and consumers to connect and interact."

According to American Express' website, "U.S. consumers reported spending a record high of an estimated $17.8 billion at independent retailers and restaurants on Small Business Saturday" in 2018, and have spent a combined estimate of $103 billion since the day began back in 2010. Those dollars can equal big dreams for small businesses: For Kyra Bussanich, four-time winner of Food Network's Cupcake Wars and owner of Kyra's Bake Shop in Lake Oswego, Oregon, days like Small Business Saturday and the support of local consumers have allowed her to open a second store. "Through the support of my beloved customers, we have been able to double our revenue nearly every year, and most recently, quadrupled net profits in 2018," Bussanich shares.

More than hard sales, however, Small Business Saturday will sometimes convert casual browsers into loyal customers, and that's something you really can't put a price on. "Small Business Saturday has the power to turn a transaction into a conversation," explains Alexis Korman, co-owner of Big Easy Bucha based in New Orleans, Louisiana. "It gives businesses like ours an opportunity to engage the community on a day when customers come in ready and willing to show some love to local entrepreneurs. Not only is this a great opportunity for us to learn more about our customers' preferences, but we get to spend time with folks who want to learn more about the 'why' of our brand."

If you'd like to participate in Small Business Saturday—celebrated this year on November 28—these owners have a few suggestions: First, "get off your sofa, lock up your keyboards, and make your way to Main Street, U.S.A.," says Ratner. As she explains, "that's where you'll find us. We're typically not in the malls or lifestyle centers. We're in your downtowns and your corner lots." Once there, business owners appreciate when you make purchases; but they also value when you share and spread the love—by bringing a friend along to shop, or on social media, Korman says. "Customers can—and should!—participate on social media during Small Business Saturday," Korman says. "In today's world, this is really the biggest 'help' a business can expect to receive." And if you have concerns about in-person shopping due to COVID-19, give your local businesses a call. You'll find that nearly every store has strategies in place to protect their customers and staff. If you would still prefer not to venture into a business, ask about curbside pickup or delivery—most business owners are happy to accommodate your needs right now.


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