In Our View: For Shopping, Think Small

We encourage Clark County residents to take part in Small Business Saturday



Today marks the unofficial start of the Christmas shopping season, with the day after Thanksgiving being designated as Black Friday. That will be followed in three days by Cyber Monday, when we are encouraged to sit around in our pajamas and shop online.

And while those days are expected to be harbingers of just how much Americans will be spending on Christmas gifts this year, tomorrow’s Small Business Saturday will have a larger impact upon our local economy.

The idea is to spend the day shopping at local stores, the kind that are locally owned and employ local workers and keep proceeds in the local community. As Gov. Jay Inslee wrote in promoting the event: “Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and the glue that holds communities together — creating jobs, boosting the local economy, and preserving our neighborhoods. Small Business Saturday is a day dedicated to supporting small businesses on the busiest shopping weekend of the year.”

Admittedly, Small Business Saturday is a contrived “holiday.” It was conceived by American Express in 2010 as a counterweight to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which benefit big-box stores and online retailers. And it has gained traction; last year, some $15.4 billion was spent nationally on Small Business Saturday, a 13 percent increase over the previous year. Along the way, consumers are recognizing the importance of supporting small businesses.

As Inslee wrote: “Small businesses employ more than half of the state’s private workforce — 1.3 million workers in Washington. Businesses with fewer than 100 employees are the largest share of business employment.” As the city of Vancouver notes on its website: “Small businesses are the core of Vancouver’s economy. They make up 95 percent of all the businesses in the city and contribute to our community by providing jobs, services and amenities.”

Which means that Small Business Saturday makes a lot of sense. In 2015, Chris Myers wrote this for “Is it really so troubling that small businesses make a momentary appeal for support amidst the suffocating din of holiday advertisements from their larger, more resourced counterparts?” No, it is not. Small, local retailers do not have the resources to pepper your TV with constant commercials, but they offer vast benefits for the community.

According to a national survey by Civic Economics, of every $100 spent at a local business, $68 remain in the local economy. Of every $100 spent at a national chain, about $43 remain in the local economy. Shopping at a big-box store sends a large chunk of the money out of the region to benefit stockholders and executives in far-away corporate offices; shopping online with a large retailer sends all of the money elsewhere.

There are other factors, as well. Successful local businesses support local banks and local insurance companies and local vendors. As the economy has become more centralized in the hands of conglomerates in recent decades, numerous regional industries have been among the victims. Meanwhile, Small Business Saturday and the awareness it creates can have a year-round impact for local businesses unable to afford multimillion-dollar advertising budgets.

Of course, there is much to be said for the familiarity of a large national chain or the world-at-your-fingertips convenience of online shopping. But in deciding how and where to conduct your Christmas shopping, we encourage Clark County residents to partake in Small Business Saturday.