Shopping local yields benefit to the community

An editorial from The Herald-Dispatch 

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — When doing your holiday shopping this season, you have the opportunity to go beyond finding just the right gifts for your family members and friends. You can also invest more in your community.

The way to accomplish that is doing your shopping – or at least more of it than you have in the past – at local, independently owned businesses. A perfect opportunity will come this weekend when many local retailers are geared up to participate in what has become known as Small Business Saturday.

The designation was established in 2010 by American Express to take place on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving, right after Black Friday and a couple of days before Cyber Monday, when online retailers offer deals on merchandise. By 2012, Small Business Saturday was recognized by every state in the country. In 2015, 95 million people went out to shop at small businesses on Small Business Saturday, an increase of 8 percent from the year before, according to the West Virginia Small Business Development Center. That translated into spending by consumers aware of Small Business Saturday of $16.2 billion, or 14 percent more than in 2014, according to the West Virginia District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The reasoning behind the observance is simple. Black Friday shopping often is concentrated at malls, which are dominated by national chains, and Cyber Monday is much the same story but carried out through online shopping. Mostly lost on both of those popular shopping days were the small, brick-and-mortar businesses that are owned and operated by the people in local communities.

The underlying message is that these small businesses are just as crucial to local economies. Karen Friel, district director at the West Virginia District Office of the SBA, says that small businesses create two of every three net new private-sector jobs. Also of note is that small businesses make up nearly 96 percent of all employers in West Virginia. Since Small Business Saturday began in 2011, 730 new West Virginia businesses started and 3,162 jobs have been created, Friel said.

In addition, more of the money spent at small, local businesses stays in the communities they serve. “The support you give West Virginia’s small businesses during the holidays can – and often does – give a big boost to their success for the year,” Kristina Oliver, director of the West Virginia Small Business Development Center, said. “More of the dollars you spend with a local small business will stay local. That’s a gift that keeps on giving to the state’s small business, your friends and neighbors who work in small businesses and the local communities they support.”

So before you go out shopping this weekend, go online to www.americanexpress.com/shopsmall and click “learn more.” Shoppers can find a local list of businesses participating in Small Business Saturday and look at an interactive database that allows searching by business name or by location and type of business. The dollars you spend locally at small businesses, both during the holiday season and throughout the year, will benefit people in your corner of the world as well as your community as a whole.

See more from The Herald-Dispatch.

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