Strictly Business: Bringing shopping home for holidays

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

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Oh, goody. More retailers are planning to break from tradition and jump-start this year's Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving.

But I'm OK with it, really. My only suggestion is to rename the holiday "Thanks-getting."

Just roll it around in your head for a minute.

The "Thanks" part represents the original notion -- dating to the 17th century feasts that led to George Washington's 18th century proclamation for "A DAY OF PUBLICK THANKSGIVING AND PRAYER."

The "getting" part embodies our allegiance to consumer spending, said to drive about 70 percent of all economic activity.

But seriously, don't forget to carve out some of your Black Friday budget to support Small Business Saturday. Nov. 24 will mark the third year in a row for the growing movement, launched by American Express in 2010 to get shoppers into small local businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Showing your support is the easy part, said Kelly Parker, executive director of the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce. Just get out and spend in the small shops owned by your friends and neighbors. Most of us can't imagine our community without them, Parker said.

"They give us the color and texture, the choice and opportunity," she said.

At the same time, small businesses are more fragile and susceptible to failure.

In fact, nearly half of these startups go belly-up within the first five years, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Whether the business is done in by poor location, insufficient capital or a lack of experienced leadership, Parker says our small-business spending won't be for naught.

"Every time we support a small business, we're investing in our future," she said.

The investment either makes the small company larger or helps its inexperienced owner learn something for the next go-round.

"It's like planting seeds; not every one will make it," Parker said.

But most will try again.

It is hard to say whether these retail businesses -- large and small -- have a greater chance at survival because of marketing movements such as Black Friday and Small Business Saturday.

But like all good sales campaigns, they do create buzz and a greater sense of urgency to shop. And that's something most of us do this time of year anyway, so we might as well think more deliberately about where and how we want to support the economy.

As shoppers, our allegiance doesn't have to be an "either-or" situation between national retailers and small shops, as some would suggest.

Parker says we can support small and large businesses alike, just as many of us will spend part of this Thursday with family and part of it roaming the aisles of a nearby big-box store.

"There's room for everybody at the table," she said.

Cami Joner is a Columbian business reporter. 360-735-4532, http://twitter.com/camijoner, http://www.columbian.com/weblogs/strictly-business, or cami.joner@columbian.com.