In the shadow of the retail shopping juggernaut that was Black Friday, Small Business Saturday this past weekend was a comparatively sedate event. And that is how it should be, how we all should be: more focused, more thoughtful and more aware of how we all behave as consumers and how that affects the economic vitality of our cherished communities.
But shopping small, as credit card giant American Express touts, is much more than a single day to patronize local businesses. It is an approach, an attitude, indeed, a frame of mind.
No one is suggesting that consumers throw all caution to the wind regarding price when making major purchases. What is required is that we abandon the idea that small businesses can’t compete on price. Just review your own experiences purchasing items online only to see them in a local shop a few days later for the same price or lower. And that is before you factor in the additional shipping cost or delay.
On a fundamental level, there’s no beating the experience of forming personal connections and long-term relationships with people who work and make a living in our downtowns. Running into our friends and neighbors while out shopping locally is also a big part of the fun and an enriching part of the experience.
When we shop closer to home, we are not just supporting those individual shops, restaurants or service businesses. We are supporting our friends and neighbors who work there and the local artists, artisans, tradespeople and suppliers with whom these firms do business.
The desire to have a strong, vibrant local community is nearly universal. However, it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It requires conscious effort and occasional sacrifice on behalf of everyone who lives here to make it happen.
No one need suggest we never “shop big.” There always will be unique products and services that require us to go farther afield, especially during the holidays. But before we do, give small, local and Maine-based businesses a chance. That small step can have a big effect on the quality of life in our local communities.