Instead of giving in to the allure of the big sales at the box stores while holiday shopping this year…think small. This November 28 will mark the fifth year for Small Business Saturday, a day launched by American Express to encourage us to stay local and shop small businesses. In recent years, the day, which follows Black Friday, has grown in popularity from capturing the attention of President Obama (who was spotted last year book shopping in Chevy Chase) to an increase in partnerships with organizations like the Small Business Administration and even companies like Etsy.
“It’s definitely a different creature than Black Friday. It has a different spirit about it. Black Friday is about getting out and getting good deals. Very hurried, panicked and stressed out,” says Kohli Flick, of Becket Hitch in Green Spring Station, adding, “Small business Saturday is about supporting your community. A very relaxed way to kick off celebrating the season.”
This day is about the community.
“It’s been a difficult year for Baltimore and any local purchase, no matter the size, shows our support for this great community,” says Stephen Umberger, Baltimore’s U.S. Small Business Administration district director. While online shopping maybe a popular option, says Umberger, it doesn’t measure up to the brick-and-mortar experience. “It doesn’t offer the personal service and long-term relationships that we get from shopping locally. “
“If you shop small business, you will really realize how unique they are,” says Mindi Leikin, the owner of Necessary Secrets (formally known as Bare Necessities). “We’ve been in business 31 years, and we’re going on the 4th generation. When you walk in the door we know who you are.”
Baltimore has over 60,000 small businesses, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, so shopping local is easy. From grocery stores like Harvest Fare to the shops sprinkled throughout the Mt. Washington area like The Ivy Bookshop and La Chic, there is something for everyone.
“We try to compete with big stores in our own way,” Leikin says, adding that “We have a rewards program now. Buy 12 bras in a year you get the 13th free.”
Small Business Saturday has been embraced by the small business owner and the entrepreneur alike because it’s a day that increases the community’s awareness of what’s in its own backyard. “From the storefront shops that anchor Main Street to the high-tech start-ups that keep America on the cutting edge, small businesses are the backbone of our economy; they are job creators and they serve as the cornerstones of viable neighborhoods and a sound economic base,” says Umberger.
Unlike the experience of going to Target or Best Buy, shopping local gives customers the opportunity to build relationships with these stores and the owners.
“I love how I see my customers everywhere. It’s amazing how small the city is. You end up seeing everybody everywhere. You really do end up creating relationships with people,” Flick says.
The major goal of this day is to generate an interest in shopping local that lasts year round. “We need to keep the momentum going through the holiday season and continue to support local merchants all year- long,”Umberger says.
Flick adds, “I think that supporting your community and the makers is important. We all shop at small businesses. Just making sure we all stay alive and that we don’t become a cookie-cutter, box-store, one-note town.”