Shopping Local Pays (Editorial)

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Nov. 19, 2012 12:00 am  

Wikipedia calls Small Business Saturday “an American shopping holiday created by American Express,” which we suppose is technically correct. We might call it a “designation” rather than a “holiday,” but either way, someone at American Express deserves an award for the idea of reminding big-box-Black-Friday-crazed consumers of the year-round value and importance of small, locally owned retailers.

Small-business owners have amazed us with their resilience and savvy. They compete with Wal-Mart and Target. They compete with Amazon and Zappos. They collect sales taxes, for Pete’s sake, and still sponsor your kids’ sports teams and donate to your school’s silent auction. And the ones who survived the Great Recession have plenty to be proud of. (“We learned that we can operate with less, and that has been a valuable business lesson,” Terry Dilday, co-owner of Cynthia East Fabrics in Little Rock, told us in a recent Executive Q&A feature.)

Introduced in 2010 and sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday (as if shopping online needed special promotion in 2012), Small Business Saturday is the best addition to the holiday shopping season. Starting Black Friday sales on Thursday evening is the worst.

Arkansas’ own Wal-Mart is part of this terrible new trend, but it certainly isn’t alone. Thanksgiving, the first truly American holiday, appeals to the very best of the American identity. Truncating the act of giving thanks for what we have so that we can start spending money (whether we have it or not) on more stuff (whether we need it or not) is almost a caricature of the worst in American culture.

The big retailers seem certain that opening on Thanksgiving evening will be good for business, and they are probably right. But those of us who resist the intrusion on our traditional day of family togetherness might think about setting aside a few holiday dollars to reward those small, local retailers that we are thankful for all year long.



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