I love everything about the holiday season, from the lights to the shopping to the friendly dispositions people generally show as we get closer to Christmas.
When the people we regularly interact with in our daily lives are in the holiday spirit, and neighborhood houses and trees are decorated for Christmas, it goes a long way toward promoting good moods and good will.
My wife and I also look forward to Small Business Saturday as our first shopping outing together for the holidays. We spend the better part of the day shopping at the independent retailers in downtown Shakopee and a few other locations around town. This includes making a couple stops for coffee, tea and lunch.
We enjoy the overall experience of going out on a day that has good sales to see new products on display and visit with friends and neighbors we happen to bump into in the stores.
I buy the majority of my Christmas presents in brick-and-mortar retailers, and many of those are in Shakopee because I prefer to spend money locally. It’s good for our community. Plus I know many of the local business owners and employees. I would much rather support them than the CEOs of conglomerates who have no interest in community building.
Despite the popularity of online shopping, it’s not for me. It’s too impersonal. When I do buy something online, it’s only because it’s a specialty item that I can’t find locally.
If I feel a good vibe in a store and make a connection with someone who works there, that’s even better. That approach has paid dividends in the form of personal recommendations and finding out about certain items, like collectables or in-demand products, as soon as they come into the store.
One advantage of shopping locally is that it increases the velocity of money in our community. The velocity of a single dollar is how many times it’s used. A higher velocity is generally considered good for the economy, because it represents people spending more money.
Shopping locally gives money a higher velocity because the money continues to move across the community, between people and businesses. By contrast, when shopping at chain stores, the money may stop at the CEO’s bank account or end up being spent in a different state or country.
While Small Business Saturday is now a regular event, it’s a relatively new concept. It was started in 2010 for the Saturday after Thanksgiving by American Express. I strongly suspect the company wanted customers to charge Christmas purchasing on their credit cards. Nevertheless, the following year, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution in support of the day, and officials across all 50 states supported the idea.
Regardless of the motive, it’s an idea that’s easy to get behind. American Express says that on average, 67 cents of every dollar spent at a small business stays within the local economy, and every dollar spent at small businesses creates an additional 50 cents in local business activity due to employees spending and businesses buying local goods and services. By contrast, 45 cents per dollar stays local when buying at a big box store.
According to a CNBC|Momentive Small Business Survey, 34% of Americans were planning to shop on Small Business Saturday. That’s up four points from last year when the pandemic discouraged in-person shopping, but down from 39% in 2019.
Incredibly, and also troubling, a new American Express survey found that 78% of small business owners said this year’s holiday sales will likely determine if they can stay in business in 2022. At a basic level, this means if you don’t support your favorite local businesses this year, you might not have a chance to next year.
Brett Martin is a columnist who’s been a Shakopee resident for over 15 years.