Local shops, restaurants gear up for Small Business Saturday

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: November 23, 2018 | 12:30 p.m. 

Millions encouraged to support local shops, restaurants Saturday, throughout Christmas season

VIRGINIA – This Saturday, along with the turkey, ham and all the sides dishes the mind can think off, plenty of newspapers filled with sales circulars will be strewn across living room tables and even floors as people hunt for Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday sales deals for the upcoming Christmas season but, a movement that continues to gain momentum seeks to remind people to bring their wallets to small businesses in their community.

American Express’ “Small Business Saturday” initiative has received strong support from businesses since the credit card company started it in 2010 as a way to help small businesses get more customers, now growing into a yearly tradition where consumers shirk traditional big box stores on the Saturday after Thanksgiving to instead shop and eat at local businesses in their community. 

“Because an average two-thirds of every dollar, 67 cents, spent at small businesses in the U.S. stays in the local community, consumers’ local impact during the important holiday shopping season could be significant,” officials with American Express explained in the lead-up to this week’s Small Business Saturday. “Further, every dollar spent at small businesses creates an additional 50 cents in local business activity as a result of employee spending and businesses purchasing local goods and services,” citing research conducted by the company.

In an American Express study, it was revealed if small businesses in the U.S., defined as businesses employing fewer than 100 employees, were a country, they would have a GDP of $4.8 trillion, equivalent to the GDP of Japan, the third largest economy in the world.

Small businesses have found success in Prince George, as Luca Italian Restaurant opened its expanded facility this year, with plans to open a Mexican dining experience at their former location nearby.

It also found, “In addition to small businesses directly employing members of the community, spending by those small businesses and their employees in the area also supports local jobs,” adding, “for every ten jobs at a small business, another seven are supported in the local community.”

While an American Express survey found 9 in 10 consumers believe its more important than ever to support small businesses, particularly during the upcoming holiday season, some small business operators feel they are forgotten and overlooked as shoppers flock to big-box stores that are sometimes well outside of their community.

“I think people tend to forget if they don’t support the small businesses, it is hard for small businesses to support the local ball teams, the Ruritan organizations, and other local activities,” owner and operator of Ragsdale Building Supply Charlotte Ragsdale shared. “A lot of small businesses in our communities do support local activities much more so than the box stores or online retailers.”

“It’s the local businesses that support the community and the community needs to support the small businesses so that, in turn, can come back around,” she said.

In Prince George, where at-home independent businesses have taken hold in the county, Deputy County Administrator Jeff Stoke believes initiatives like Small Business Saturday helps re-acclimate locals to the unique shopping and dining opportunities that exist in their own backyard.

“We always look to support our local businesses because they are the backbone of the economy,” he said. “Here, 60 percent of businesses are home-based businesses, who are small businesses in the county. This was one of the reasons why we worked to get internet to some of those rural areas where the homes are because so much business activity is happening with the small businesses and home-based businesses.”

Prince George County Deputy County Administrator Jeff Stoke, seen here speaking to attendees at the Rural Broadband Summit this summer, said getting broadband internet deployed in the county was vital as many small businesses in the county are home-based.

Stoke continued, “We hope that Small Business Saturday is a mechanism to focus attention toward those businesses for the locals to purchase goods and services at those locations.”

According to the survey by American Express, 83 percent of shoppers said they planned to do some portion of their holiday shopping at a small, independently owned retailer or business, be it in person or online, with 80 percent of those surveyed saying they plan to shop local during the November 24 Small Business Saturday event. 

For many small businesses, it’s about carrying the energy and momentum from the one-day-a-year event that Small Business Saturday is and transforming it into a year-long action by consumers to spend their dollars locally with locally-owned businesses, something Ragsdale said isn’t occurring as often as she and others would like to see.

 

“Sadly, it’s not what you would hope it would be considering the things we do try to do to support the county,” Ragsdale remarked. “People just tend to have the big-box store mentality. They will drive by a Ragsdale’s or Sutherland Sporting Goods to go to a Dick’s Sporting Goods.” 

“I can say that’s true for at least half of the businesses out here,” she continued. “We were recently asked to help with the Grand Illumination. We do that every year because we believe it’s the right thing to do. I do wish we would see more people supporting the local economy.”

As a small business owner, Ragsdale believes the goals of Small Business Saturday does help to get consumers locally thinking about the impact their dollar has on a local business as opposed to a larger corporation.

“I am right there with my pocketbook leading the charge,” she remarked. “We, too, right there, making sure we are shopping local and supporting small businesses.”

Those comments were echoed by National Federation of Independent Businesses CEO and President Juanita Duggan, who simply said, “When shoppers spend locally at small businesses, communities win.”

For Ragsdale and other local businesses in the region, each dollar a shopper spends in an independently run business helps sustain that business, allowing it to continue to be a tax revenue and job generator for the community while serving to support local efforts that go beyond business.

“You shouldn’t take a business for granted,” she remarked. “Just because we are here today doesn’t mean we will be here tomorrow unless we have the support of the community.”

“If in doubt, shop local,” Stoke said. “Shop local, shop small. Keep those businesses alive and well in our community.”

Small Business Saturday is Saturday, November 24 and shoppers are being encouraged by American Express to “Shop Small” by visiting and making purchases at local businesses in their community and to chronicle their Small Business Saturday by using the hashtags #ShopSmall and #SmallBizSat.

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