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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

In Our View: Small businesses vital to community’s health

The Columbian
Published: November 25, 2022, 6:03am

While today marks the unofficial start of Christmas shopping season, allow us to look ahead one day. Beyond the shopping frenzy of Black Friday lies Small Business Saturday, a day that can make a difference in our community.

Advertisements for weeks have been trumpeting the deals available today from national retailers who can afford widespread TV ads and glossy inserts as part of million-dollar marketing campaigns.

While those corporations are essential to the local economy, supporting the tax base and employing local residents as sales people and delivery drivers, the impact of small, locally owned businesses should not be ignored. That is the premise behind Small Business Saturday, which was created a decade or so ago by credit card company American Express.

Look at it this way: When you shop at a big-box store that has a national profile, state and local sales tax is collected and local employees are supported, but the profit gets sent to a far-off headquarters for a company that pays corporate taxes in its home state. In contrast, when you shop at a locally owned store, the sales tax and employee wages remain in Washington, but so do the business’s taxes and the salary for a local proprietor.

There are obvious benefits to supporting a store owner who lives in the community rather than one who lives in, say, Bentonville, Ark.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there are more than 640,000 small businesses in Washington — comprising more than 99 percent of the state’s employers. Those businesses have 1.4 million workers — more than half the state’s workforce.

Not all of those are retailers, of course. But the numbers demonstrate the impact of small companies in our state. Collectively, there is nothing small about small business, and a 2019 study from Washington State University’s Carson College of Business found that many shoppers still are drawn to the customer service of a brick-and-mortar outlet.

“We’ve found shoppers often find inspiration for gifts while perusing the aisles and value in-person customer service and the ability to see and feel the products,” the study’s author said.

That personal touch often is lost during the chaos of Black Friday or the detached experience of Cyber Monday. While we encourage shoppers to support local businesses on those days as well, Small Business Saturday is a dedicated opportunity to support proprietors and workers who might be your neighbor.

With an increase of national retailers and the rise of online shopping, the demise of small retailers has been predicted for decades. It is difficult to compete with a big-box store that can purchase products at volume levels for discount prices or with an online retailer that can sell just about every item imaginable and deliver it to your door. The benefits for customers are clear.

But as online news site Chron.com writes: “Small businesses are important because they provide opportunities for entrepreneurs and create meaningful jobs with greater job satisfaction than positions with larger, traditional companies. They foster local economies, keeping money close to home and supporting neighborhoods and communities.”

That doesn’t mean you should bypass purchasing those United Nuclear Uranium Ore Fragments from Amazon (yes, they are available there), but it does mean that you might find something unique at a local retailer. And you just might provide a boost for the local economy.