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Small Business Saturday Shopping Guide: Get The Most Out Of #shoplocal

Dayana Yochim  |  November 23, 2019

Savor the rewards of shopping in your neighborhood on Small Business Saturday! Score great gifts, soak in the local flavor AND support your community! Here’s your #shoplocal game plan. 

Small Business Saturday on Nov. 30 — sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday — may sound like a gimmicky made-up holiday… and it is. (American Express christened it 10 years ago to support its small merchant account holders.) But it’s also so much more.

The real focus of Small Business Saturday is awareness, says Carol R. Wilkerson, Press Director of the U.S. Small Business Administration in Washington, D.C. “It’s a way to support the small businesses that make an important impact in their neighboring communities.” 

The real value of #shopsmall

If it’s rock-bottom prices you’re after, Black Friday is the day to get the best prices on small appliances, technology and, of course, those door-buster deals. (See our Black Friday shopping tips for more.) On Cyber Monday, it’s about saving money on apparel, beauty items and soft goods (like towels and bedding). (Here’s our guide to Cyber Monday deals.) 

The rewards of shopping in your own neighborhood on Small Business Saturday are different. 

A Michigan State University study comparing the economic impact of small businesses versus chain stores or large non-locally owned businesses found that for every $100 spent at a large retailer, about $43 stays in the local community. Drop the same amount of cash at an independently owned small business, and roughly $73 gets funneled back into the local economy.

There’s also the warm-and-fuzzies you get from financially supporting hometown business owners, their employees, suppliers (often local artisans and other small businesses), and giving the environment (and your mail carrier) a break from Amazon deliveries.

Get the most out of your #shoplocal experience

For retailers, Small Business Saturday is the opportunity to create an experience for customers who are the lifeblood of local businesses, says Amy Rutherford, who owns two shops in my Alexandria, Va. cobblestone-paved Old Town neighborhood — Red Barn Mercantile (which sells home furnishings and gifts) and Penny Post (a modern-day paperie). 

“It’s the chance to avoid the chaos of the mall and build connections,” Rutherford says. “We roll out the red carpet for folks to show our appreciation for what they’ve done for us over the years.” This year’s red-carpet treatment at the dozens of stores that are part of the local tradition includes complimentary coffee, cocktails and mocktails, popcorn tastings, crafting workshops, sidewalk chalk stations for kids, trunk shows and pop-up shops featuring local makers, and more. 

Search your local Chamber of Commerce website, the American Express database of community organizations and Etsy Local for shop small events and independent retailers in your town. Then make the most of the day — and your holiday shopping dollars — with these tips:

Enjoy the treasure hunt: Small business holiday fare is as varied as the boutiques, galleries, bookstores, restaurants and other shops found on your local Main Street. It’s perfect hunting ground for unique gifts with a back story and local flavor. Look for items produced with regional resources or made by hometown artists.

Start shopping early: Big-box stores don’t have a lock on Black Friday. Plenty of small businesses stage competing Black Friday sales, offering perks like a free gift with purchase and sunrise deep discounts for early-bird shoppers.

Score free parking: Retail districts that normally charge for parking will waive fees for the weekend so you can shop without worrying about feeding the meter. 

Explore the side streets: ‘Tis the season to discover hidden gems in your town. Rutherford and more than 20 other independent shopkeepers created a Small Business Saturday scavenger hunt to highlight stores in the entire historic Old Town neighborhood. Shoppers are given a map of all the participating shops and their Saturday specials. Collect 10 stamps (no purchase necessary), and you’re eligible for a drawing for $1,000 in gift certificates and a free night at a local boutique hotel. Many neighborhoods will be offering something similar, so just pop into your favorite boutique and ask! 

Dine local while you’re out: As you make headway on your gift list, take a break in a local restaurant to refuel for shopping, round two. While you’re there pick up a gift certificate.

Think beyond brick-and-mortar deals: Not every small business can afford a storefront on the main shopping drag. Look online for local e-tailers celebrating Small Business Saturday and, of course, Cyber Monday, too. 

This season shop locally and spread joy among the people on your gift list, small shop owners and the local community at large.

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