The 10th annual Small Business Saturday is Nov. 30

Shop small businesses to improve your holiday experience

It’s the time of year when newspapers thicken with sales circulars and holiday advertisements. Consumers looking to beat the hustle and bustle and steer clear of the crowds this year may want to pay attention to local businesses in lieu of trekking to nearby shopping malls.

Every time consumers visit local coffee shops to grab a latte, pick up a dress at a nearby boutique or patronize a farmer’s market down the street, they are supporting a small business. The Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving are some of the busiest shopping days of the season, and they also can be some of the friendliest to small businesses.

Plaid Friday was conceptualized in Oakland. It may have been born in the Golden State, but the movement soon spread across the country. Plaid Friday is an alternative to big box stores’ Black Friday bonanzas. It is designed to promote both local and independently-owned businesses during the holiday season. The name Plaid Friday was used to help people visualize the various threads of small businesses coming together to create a strong community fabric that was diverse and creativity.

Shoppers can continue their small business patronage with Small Business Saturday. This, too, is a counterpart to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The first event was created by American Express in conjunction with the nonprofit National Trust for Historic Preservation. Since its inception, many small business groups, merchants and politicians have touted the event and the Shop Small® mantra. The idea is that when small businesses thrive, communities and individuals thrive along with them.

The Small Business Administration says that, since 1995, small businesses have generated 66 percent of all new jobs in the United States. There are a number of big reasons to shop small. One can start around the holidays and then continue all year long.

Shopping small businesses helps give back to the community directly. According to Civic Economics, a strategic planning business, on average 48 percent of each purchase made at independent businesses is recirculated locally through tax money and other support.

Small business owners often strive to provide personalized, hands-on customer service. Repeat business is key to their survival, so they want to ensure shoppers are happy.

Small businesses, since they are not beholden to corporate oversight in terms of what they sell, have greater flexibility. That allows them to offer a diverse product selection.

Small business owners often live nearby, and they’re the people you see in town, schools and elsewhere in the local community. Many consumers are comforted to know they’re supporting their neighbors, especially during the holiday season.

Supporting local businesses is easy. And shoppers who like what they see can share the good news with others on social media.

Shopping facts and figures

The holidays are here, and that means millions of people will spend time decorating, making shopping lists, purchasing presents, and stocking up on entertaining essentials. Various groups and consumer watchdogs track trends in holiday spending and giving, and many facts and figures may surprise holiday enthusiasts.

Economists with the National Retail Federation say online and retail sales in 2017 increased by 10.5 percent over the previous year. The combination of job and wage gains, modest inflation, and elevated consumer confidence has led to higher holiday spending. Between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday 2017, more than 174 million Americans shopped in stores and online, offers the NRF. Black Friday still reigns supreme, with 77 million consumers.

However,

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Saturday was not far behind, with 55 million consumers.

Data from Prosper Insights & Analytics says people planned to spend an average of $967.13 in 2017 on the holiday season.

That was up 3.4 percent from the year prior.

Tracking of spending on video games by The NPD Group reflects a growth of 15 percent when compared to a year ago. All categories have shown gains, including software, hardware, accessories, and game cards. Fortnite has been a significant software sales driver for 2018, ratcheting up legions of fans seemingly overnight.

Many people pride themselves on shopping early for gifts, but there are eleventh-hour consumers as well. NRF says around 15 percent of last-minute shoppers plan to buy gifts at supermarkets or grocery stores.

Charitable giving tends to skyrocket at the end of the year, when the spirit of giving synonymous with the season inspires individuals to give back. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, the average total cash contribution to charity by individuals is roughly $245.

The NRF notes that, in 2017, only about 12 percent of consumers finished their holiday shopping by the second week of December.

Research from Forbes found that gift cards will continue to reign supreme. Gift cards are convenient for gift-givers, and PWC found that 42 percent of people prefer to receive gift cards for the holidays.

Sales are strong for both online and brick-and-mortar retailers. Accenture’s “10th Annual Accenture Holiday Shopping Survey” discovered 84 percent of consumers plan to go online, particularly to Amazon.com, to research and price-check gifts before looking or buying elsewhere.

The Accenture survey also found that at least three-quarters of shoppers are enticed by coupons and other promotions to shop at stores they have not visited before.

Don’t let the holiday buying season fool you. Shopping continues even after Santa has slid down the chimney. The NRF states 48 percent of shoppers will take advantage of after-Christmas sales in stores.

Statistics show just how big small business is

Small businesses have such a big impact on their communities, and the world at large, that it might be time to reconsider referring to them as “small.” According to the World Bank, small businesses have a major impact on the world economy, especially in emerging countries. In such nations, small and medium enterprises contribute up to 60 percent of total employment and up to 40 percent of national income.

Small businesses figure to frame their economies in emerging countries in the coming decades, and they’re already doing so in developed nations, such as the United States and Canada. The following statistics show just how big small businesses have become.

The U.S. Small Business Administration notes that small businesses make up 99.7 percent of all employers in the United States.

Hundreds of thousands of new businesses are started each month, with Yahoo! reporting that about 543,000 entrepreneurs open a business in a typical month.

No business is too small to be a small business. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that microbusinesses, which are defined as firms that employ between one and nine employees, accounted for 75 percent of all private-sector employers as recently as 2013.

Small businesses and happiness might be linked. A 2019 survey from Guidant Financial and the online lending marketplace LendingClub found that 78 percent of small business owners rated their level of happiness as an average of eight on a scale of one to 10 (10 being the happiest).

Female entrepreneurs are on the rise. A 2017 report from American Express found that female entrepreneurship grew by 114 percent between 1997 and 2017.

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