Forget the mall. It's 'Small Business Saturday'

This is "Small Business Saturday" when shoppers are urged to visit local businesses. Getting away from the malls and out of the big box stores helps the local economy since more of the money spent stays in the community.

By , Staff writer

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    Think Local Umpqua members and volunteers encourage passersby in Oakland, Ore., to shop at local independent businesses this holiday season on Friday, Nov. 25, 2011. Think Local Umpqua is an independent business alliance.
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Last year, American Express promoted a program called “Small Business Saturday” to get Americans on the day after Black Friday to spend some money at a local merchant. In return the consumers who pre-registered got a $25 credit if they spent at least that much at a merchant who is participating.

Getting away from the malls and out of the big box stores also helps the local economy since more of the money spent stays in the community.

This Saturday, the program is back – with even more merchants taking part than last year.

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“This is the first year I’ve heard about it,” says Robert Pilamunga of the 5th Avenue Chocolatiere, which is taking part in the promotion. “It’s good if it promotes business.”

Already, there is a considerable buzz about the event on social media, including Facebook (2.5 million people “like” it so far) and on Twitter (#SmallBizSaturday).

Last year, merchants who participated said it helped boost sales, which has led yet more local businesses to sign up. On Facebook, over 2 million people – more than twice as many as last year – have said they “like” the event and Twitter’s #SmallBizSaturday has seen over 30,000 tweets sent about the event. American Express has increased the number of cardholders it will give the credit to up to 300,000 (compared to an earlier cap of 200,000).

Even organizations that sometimes bump heads politically – think the Chamber of Commerce and the White House – are on the same page supporting the effort. According to Amex some 41 elected officials, mostly governors and mayors, have designated “Small Business Saturday.”  

“Small business is the engine of job creation in the US economy,” said Kenneth I. Chenault, chairman and chief executive officer of American Express in a press release. “It is also among the sectors hardest hit by the recession.” 

According to the federal Small Business Administration there are some 28 million small businesses in the US. In the past they have been the driver for creating new jobs.

According to another organization encouraging Americans to buy locally – the 3/50 Project (think of 3 businesses you would not like to see disappear and spend $50 a month at them) – for every $100 spent in a locally owned brick-and-mortar business, $68 stays in the community.

That would certainly be true of Mr. Pilamunga’s business. All of his chocolates are made in Valley Stream, New York, which is on Long Island.

“Everyone who works there is a local resident,” he says.

By way of contrast, 3/50 says only $43 stays in the community when it’s spent in a “big box” or national chain. Buying on-line means almost nothing stays in the community unless the e-tailer is in exactly the same community, according to the organization’s web site.

In order to qualify for its Small Business Saturday offer, an Amex cardholder has to pre-register (anytime up to December 31st) to receive the $25 credit for any good purchased on Saturday.

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