It’s early on a Saturday and you plan to shop all day. You need to fuel up on caffeine and food. Which scenario sounds favorable?
A line at a national chain with a wait time that exceeds 30 minutes, a latte brewed by a bored 16 year old and a recently unfrozen bagel? Or a warm bistro where a carefully crafted beverage and a freshly baked scone made with locally sourced ingredients are delivered to you by a passionate employee you’ve come to know?
It sounds like a no-brainer, right? You want to shop where you’re treated well and provided a quality product. It’s ideal to shop in a friendly environment that isn’t over-lit and mercilessly engineered to make you spend beyond your budget. This place exists when you shop local.
While small businesses are rarely competitive purely on the merit of price points, they have a lot to offer their community. Unfortunately they are overlooked. Most consumers are preprogrammed to brave the misery of the mall or that big-name retailer.
Small Business Saturday
Enter Small Business Saturday. Created in 2010 by American Express, purveyor of personal and small business cards. The event falls between Black Friday and Cyber Monday and is identified as the perfect day to get Americans to think local. Most small businesses can’t compete with the dramatic price-cuts offered by big businesses before the holidays. Small Business Saturday gives local stores a chance by spotlighting major discounts and sales only available at small businesses. American Express went so far as to offer cardholders a $25 rebate for shopping locally on Small Business Saturday.
For three years, small businesses have embraced the opportunity to boost their holiday sales and gain new customers. Sunday Steinkirchnerof B&B Rare Books told Forbes about her experience with Small Business Saturday and how she boosted her sales by 400%.
But one Saturday a year isn’t enough, small businesses need customers to shop small year-round; and they have to do it without the marketing budget of a Fortune 500 company.
Make A Difference
Small business owners must band together and act as allies. Though local businesses might compete for consumer dollars, when the community commits to local stores they all win.
Both shoppers and business owners have hold the power for change. Active involvement in local government can help advocate local businesses and provide networking opportunities. The Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau (or equivalent organization) are great places to start. Though there is usually a cost associated with membership in these organizations, if you utilize the member benefits and networking power it will be a worthwhile expenditure.
Be outgoing, communicate and network with your fellow small business owners. Tout their triumphs and share resources to help them overcome trials. Send them business through referrals and encourage them to do the same. Work to inform consumers that when they shop local they are investing in themselves and their community. As always, back it all up by providing great customer service and an enjoyable experience for customers so they’ll keep coming back.