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Our View: Shop ‘small’ this holiday season

Published: Friday, Nov. 29, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

By now, if you’re into the whole Black Friday experience (or even Brown Thursday if you hit the sales on Thanksgiving), you’ve likely lugged bags of deals into your home and crossed many names off your holiday shopping list.

Before you put away your treasures – or if you have yet to start formulating your gift-giving plans – we have a message for you: Shop small. And we don’t mean buy small items. We mean shop small businesses.

You know, those places that anchor your downtown district and might be called mom-and-pop stores, the ones on the corner that make your neighborhood, well, your neighborhood.

Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday, an effort by American Express to encourage holiday shoppers to patronize small businesses. The initiative – referred to as a “shopping holiday” by some and sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday – started in 2010.

Last year, nearly 70 million people “shopped small” for an estimated $5.5 billion in sales to independently-owned small businesses, according to the federal Small Business Administration.

The 28 million small businesses in America create two out of every three net new private sector jobs and are the backbone of our economy, with half of working Americans either owning or working for a small business, according to the SBA.

These are the shops owned and operated by your neighbors, not someone in another state (or even country). These are the people who might have given you your first summer job as a teenager, who know the importance of customer service and who often donate to your community.

They also are likely the shops where you’re going to find unique gifts that big-box stores simply don’t offer. Those stores aim to please the masses. Small businesses often provide options that, when you see a certain item, you immediately think it was dropped there specifically for a certain person on your gift list.

Where you spend your dollars matters. When you spend your money at small businesses it stays in your community. And please, don’t feel this Saturday is the only day to check out your local stores.

You’re shopping anyway. Why not score great gifts while helping your town?

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