The madness has begun. Having forgotten an important “Honey-Do” on his way home from work last Friday, my husband walked into the house without the milk I asked him to stop for. No worries. I jumped in my car to make a quick trip to the corner market. It just so happens that I have to pass a large shopping mall near our house. Now mind you, we haven’t hit Thanksgiving week yet, but the holiday advertising descended upon us with a vengeance before we had even walked out of the stores with our Halloween candy. Still, as I headed for the Mom-and-Pop store on the corner for my milk, I noticed a line of small tents on the sidewalk outside of the well-known electronics super-store. I know that I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. As a result, my gawking and slowing down caused the driver in the car behind me to honk me back into the moment. A line of shoppers, gearing up for consumerism battle on Black Friday, which at this point, was a week away. After years of seeing this spectacle, you’d think I’d be used to it. But it still causes me to shake my head in amazement.
When I got to the little market for my milk, I asked the store owner if he’d seen the line of campers that had already formed. He laughed and called them “squappers”, a mash-up of the words “shoppers” and “squatters”. He remarked that they were a bit late in starting this year. Last year, they were lined up by Veteran’s Day. Yes, the mall parking lots were already filling, the shopping shuttles had begun. “But,” he added, “I have to say, I wouldn’t be one bit bothered if they were lining up outside my store. Business is business and I’d be a happy man if they were shopping here.” I nodded in agreement. Yes, if I were the owner of a small business, I guess I’d be pretty happy too. In an article called “America Runs on Small Business”, Small Business Advocate and Counselor Mike Clough writes:
A recent study by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Advocacy counted 26.8 million businesses in the United States. Of those, 99.9% have fewer than 500 employees and as such are considered small businesses. This means that only one-tenth of one percent have more than 500 employees. Yet, more notable is the fact that according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 98.2% have fewer than 100 employees. And if you are impressed with that number, you may be amazed to learn that in the same report it states that 89.3% of the businesses in America have fewer than 20 employees! Bear with me for just a moment more as I drive this point home. Even more amazing is the fact that 78.6% have fewer than 10 employees and 60.8% have fewer than 5 employees.
It doesn’t take much to see that small businesses in America are much like that favorite childhood story about the little engine with the optimistic mantra; “I think I can.” They’re the job creators and the economy boosters. That’s one of the very reasons that last year, I did all of my holiday shopping at local small businesses, both brick-and-mortar and online. I’m committed to doing that again this year, and I’ve encouraged friends and family to do the same.
Since 2010, American Express has promoted Small Business Saturday; the Saturday after Thanksgiving during one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year. Small Business Saturday encourages holiday shoppers to patronize businesses that are small and local. This year, Small Business Saturday fell on November 24th. Last year, a consumer survey showed that over one million people joined in to Shop Small in their local communities. One million people…if you could imagine that number as a line of tents outside your favorite Mom-and-Pop store, you can easily imagine how that could help drive the economy, and keep small businesses running in America. Happily, we don’t have to line up or pitch tents for days on end and become “squappers.” That’s one of the joys of shopping small. We can easily frequent and patronize our small businesses close to home – small family businesses like Scooter’s Jungle. A gift certificate for Open Play or Toddler Time would be a great gift for the holidays and an awesome way to support small business.
You can find out what small businesses in your community participated in Small Business Saturday by visiting www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/Shop-Small/. Join the one million from last year and help keep those small business gears turning America’s engine.