Small Business Saturday Economic Impact

Union Square in Hickory NC

A quiet morning before shoppers come to Union Square to shop in Hickory, North Carolina

How Did “Small Business Saturday” Fare in Small Towns?

Amercian Express sponsored this year’s “Small Business Saturday.” The event has received the largest “awareness campaign” this year. The results? They are just coming in this morning.

According to JJ Ramberg, contributing editor for MSNBC, over 108 million people shopped in their local communities on Saturday. However, sales figures have not been disclosed yet. The push has been to support small business in the wake of the changing economy. This shift has put a lot of local companies out of business over the past decade. For example, Barnes and Noble put the small bookstore out of business and then Amazon put Barnes and Noble out of business. Supercenters like Wal-Mart have pushed out smaller specialty stores too.

Is This a Trend of Big Box Companies Shutting Down Small Businesses?

It is making downtown areas of small towns resemble “ghost towns” with the sheer number of empty store-fronts. For example, in the small town of Hickory, North Carolina which used to boast being the “furniture capital of the world” they have seen a major shift since the mid-range and low-end furniture business has gone overseas. “You walk the streets of downtown, and it feels like every other shop is empty,” says Mike Hayden, a Hickory resident.

Small Business Saturday is looking to reverse the trend that is happening to small cities like Hickory all over the nation. By educating the community and getting people to just “get out there” and see what is available, will hopefully spur more economic sales for local business. Small businesses have seen a significant downturn over the years.

What Are The Reasons People Give For Shopping Local?

Ramberg commented on many reasons for people to shop local, but the most important? Supporting your local community. Because when you buy at local small business, your purchase doesn’t go into the pocket of someone in another state, instead, it can go to sponsor a local little league team, pay for a little girl’s dance lessons, or a night out at the local pub. When you invest in small business, small business owners also support other small business’. It is a cycle that boosts your local economy and your community.

According to Ramberg, here are the reasons why we had record numbers of people shopping at local small businesses on Saturday:

  • people are tired of the impersonal experience of buying online
  • they want excellent customer service, which local companies have far more of
  • they like the energy they feel in a local small business
  • the advice they get is far better than from a big box store
  • sales staff are now better trained compared to big box stores

While the prices can be higher, shoppers said they are willing to pay a little more to get the touch they have missed over the years. But until actual sales numbers are released, we don’t know if this is now a stable relationship American shoppers are having with small business or just a fling.

What Can You Do?

You can visit American Express’ website to support small businesses in your community all year long. Look on their site with their “Find Places Near Me” feature. This search function is based on where your IP address is located, which often is not where you live. Typically, the initial location will be 5-10 miles from your actual location. To change it is simple, just type in your current location in the locator finder in the upper left of the screen. It will be interesting to see how well this campaign does in comparison to other jump-start economic programs in Ireland.