Millions of ideas are generated every day, but few really take off.
It requires something special to get people to stop, pay attention and act. Small Business Saturday is one of those ideas.
Now a familiar part of our lexicon, it’s hard to believe this concept, which was created by American Express, wasn’t launched until 2010, when it got 1.2 million followers on Facebook in one month. In 2012, shoppers spent an estimated $5.5 billion on this one day – the day after the “Day Which Shall Not Be Named.” This year, you can join the movement by shopping locally and small on Saturday.
Similar to the other holidays designed to get consumers to spend money, people, businesses and credit cards make profits on this endeavor. Mostly I eschew this kind of thinking, but I adore Small Business Saturday and everything for which it stands.
We can all shop online, use our discount codes to get ridiculously cheap prices and over-purchase with the promise of free shipping. None of that is an experience; we wouldn’t regale friends at a holiday party about our amazing online shopping experiences.
What could get us to talk are the interesting interactions we have with store and gallery owners, individual artists who have set up shop in tiny little creative spaces, art that is so unexpected and profound that you have to purchase it because there’s nothing else like it.
I’m not a (shudder!) Black Friday – or apparently now Thanksgiving afternoon – shopper, and from all the tales of horror I hear, I never will be.
My idea of an experience is not to use my tall stature to crush some unsuspecting, longitudinally-challenged person in our shared effort to get that one-item-that’s-so-cheap-it’s-embarrassing off the highest shelf.
Instead, I want to go somewhere where I receive individual attention, can purchase hand-made items and know the owner of the store and often the maker of the product.
By now, you know that I am passionate about investing in our local economy. When you shop at independent stores, more of that money stays here. You are also helping to ensure our downtown stays vibrant, our business sector is diversified and our artists are making livable wages.
Don’t think I’m saying to avoid the big-box stores and online shopping. Everybody shops at these places, and they serve an important purpose. But I am asking you to consider putting a percentage of your spending into the truly local, independent stores, shops, galleries, restaurants and artists that make up such an interesting and vital part of our community.
Set aside Saturday to gather friends and family at a reasonable time of day and get out and explore all the little places you haven’t been to for a while or ever. Don’t stay away because you worry you will have to purchase something if you go in or because you think prices will be unreasonable. Don’t avoid it because you think there’s nothing there for you and your long list or because you think there’s nowhere to park.
Make it an experience –stop for great coffee, map where you want to go, or bravely go in to every store that piques your interest. Eat lunch somewhere new and make the walking between stores part of the fun, even if it’s freezing cold.
It’s all part of what makes Small Business Saturday a great experience and what could amount to a new holiday tradition for you and yours.
Dayna Del Val, executive director of The Arts Partnership, writes a monthly column for Variety. For more information on the arts, go to http://theartspartnership.net.