The Times West Virginian

November 29, 2013

Dealing with local small businesses is win-win option to strongly consider

Times West Virginian

— With Thanksgiving in the past, the thoughts of shoppers are now on Christmas.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become common terms for big shopping days as consumers rush to purchase those special gifts for loved ones.

They certainly have plenty of options as that final countdown to Christmas gets under way.

One we hope they seriously consider comes up in one day, when consumers are encouraged to show their support of local small businesses and “shop small” for Small Business Saturday.

American Express launched this special day in 2010 with the idea that people could make a difference by supporting small businesses.

The focus is on businesses that are locally owned. Statistics show that 52 cents of every dollar that is spent at a local business stays in the community.

“We have a reputation of giving back not only with our finances but with our time,” Louis Spatafore, co-owner of Friendly Furniture Galleries in Fairmont, said of small businesses in general. “We tend to volunteer and do what we can to make our communities better. You don’t always find that with outside interests.”

Consumers, at the same time, can take advantage of unique offerings and personal service.

Small Business Saturday is getting a push from many levels.

The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce believes that “all trade is good trade,” said Steve Roberts, president of the organization, but is especially interested in helping small businesses.

“We try to remind people that buying it here is always a good idea,” he said. “Our economy is about 70 percent a consumer economy, and when people do their holiday shopping locally they support their local economy and they help make sure that people have jobs and have the goods and products that the consumers most want.”

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is urging consumers to visit the state’s local businesses throughout the holiday season.

“Local merchants provide important jobs, goods and services,” he said in a press release. “West Virginia’s small businesses play a vital role in our state and local economies. Small business is big business in West Virginia, and I encourage everyone to take this opportunity to support small businesses on Nov. 30.”

Small businesses make up 96 percent of employers in West Virginia, according to the state Development Office. Also, the employees of small businesses account for 53.1 percent of West Virginia’s private-sector labor force.

The National Federation of Independent Business and American Express recently conducted a nationwide survey to find out small business owners’ plans to try to bring consumers into their shops this holiday season, and they plan to be aggressive.

According to the survey, 67 percent will offer discounts, 39 percent will work with other small businesses on special community events, and 36 percent will offer coupons. In addition, 32 percent of small businesses owners indicated that they were beginning their promotions for the holidays earlier this year, and 21 percent intended to have more staff on hand to work on Small Business Saturday.

In Marion County, Small Business Saturday has a record of success.

Last year, members of the Marion County Chamber of Commerce were very happy with the turnout in their local stores, said President Tina Shaw.

“I think it’s wonderful that it’s become such a national event that now small businesses get recognized ... for at least one day during the holiday season,” she said. “Small businesses are the bread and butter of your community, so they create jobs.”

Rana Taylor, program manager for Mannington Main Street, appreciates efforts to place a focus on what is available from local merchants.

“Any time you can create something different to help your town, those dollars are staying here,” she said. “Any time you can create an event like that that helps the businesses, it’s a good thing.”

Dealing with local merchants on a consistent basis — not just Small Business Saturday — is a win-win proposition. Our locally owned businesses and communities as well as consumers can benefit nicely.

We encourage shoppers to consider the option seriously as they go about their Christmas shopping and make purchases throughout the year.