‘Shop Small’ on Saturday and give Maine’s small businesses a boost

CONSUMER FORUM

By David Clough, Maine state director, National Federation of Independent Business
Posted Nov. 29, 2013, at 4:30 p.m.
Last modified Nov. 29, 2013, at 5:39 p.m.

One of Northeast CONTACT’s underlying beliefs is that strong local businesses are important to consumers. In that light, we asked David Clough for his thoughts on shopping locally this holiday season and beyond. — Russ Van Arsdale, executive director, Northeast CONTACT

Even as the economy has limped along and small-business owner confidence has waned, our faith in the men and women of Main Street has not faded, but remained constant; this is for good reason. In the face of economic struggles, many small employers, instead of laying people off, have cut their own salaries to keep their full complement of employees. Others have dipped into savings or taken out second mortgages to keep their doors open or to avoid cutting back employee hours.

These are no small feats, but they largely go without acknowledgement or recognition. So when an opportunity to thank these men and women for their daily sacrifices arises, we should take it. We find such an opportunity on Small Business Saturday.

The campaign to “shop small” on the Saturday after Thanksgiving started in 2010 as little more than an effort to give small businesses — many struggling to get out of the red after a long recession — a much-needed shot in the arm. But in the three years since, Small Business Saturday has become a powerful movement to give back to the brick-and-mortar establishments that line our Main Streets and keep our communities vibrant.

The concept is simple: Instead of sitting at home and ordering online or “one-stop-shopping” at the nearest “big-box” store, put on your boots and coat and take a walk through the small and independent establishments in your community. Make Main Street ground zero for your holiday shopping. Many local businesses around the country will be offering special deals and discounts throughout the day to encourage shoppers and to commemorate the day, so the incentive to “shop small” is all the greater.

It’s strange to think that doing something so modest — shopping at an independent business — can have such a big effect. National research on last year’s event showed that consumers who were aware of Small Business Saturday spent a total of $5.5 billion with independent merchants that day, higher than earlier estimates of anticipated spending. Indeed, even President Obama and his family did their part last year, patronizing a local bookstore and giving its holidays sales a boost.

The biggest incentive to shop small is that in doing so, you are not only helping to keep small businesses operating but also making your community stronger. It’s likely when you purchase a product or service at a local store or restaurant you are helping to pay the salary of a neighbor, a friend or a family member. You are helping to keep the people in your town or city employed so that they can support their families. Most importantly, you are demonstrating the value that you place on the small-business people who, by providing you and your community with unparalleled products and services, work hard to keep your trust each and every day.

During times like these, we could all benefit from a boost in our faith — faith in the future, faith in our country, faith in our economy. Show your faith in America and “shop small.” Such an effort is always timely.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, visit https://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

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