A major credit card company (American Express) is promoting today —Saturday, Nov. 30 — as “Small Business Saturday.”
We think it’s a great idea ... and a good start.
Reasons cited include preserving strong retail neighborhoods as well as a healthy economic environment for small businesses, and keeping profits at home. We suggest that the concept be expanded to “Small Business Season,” and for the same reasons.
Small businesses have long been recognized as major generators of jobs, and incubators for the American entrepreneurial spirit. In most cities, including Bartow, they are the strength of downtown core areas — they are Main Street America.
The dynamics of commerce have seen major shopping centers and “big box stores” become the focus of most retail activity. That is life as it is, and we find no fault with it.
But if small businesses — and with them, downtown retail communities — are to survive, they need more than kind words and master plans. They need customers who will stand by them, even as hometown retailers have stood by their customers.
No, shoppers will not find that new Lincoln Navigator for Mom, lawn tractor for Dad, or 60-inch TV set for the living room at many small retailers.
What they will find is a merchant who calls his or her customers by name when they walk into the store, who likely knows the tastes and special interests of spouses or significant others, and who will spend as much time as it takes to find — or to place a special order for — just the right gift.
The most savvy small merchants may even tactfully remind a husband that the pendant he has picked out is indeed beautiful ... and that is why he bought an almost identical one for his wife last year. What kind of a price can you put on that kind of service?
Small merchants do not need and do not seek our charity; they need and seek our patronage.
So as we fight the crowds at the national chain retailers or maneuver through their web sites, let’s resolve to do part of our business with small local merchants whose owners have put their heart and soul, and quite possibly their life’s savings, into their unique retail enterprise.
Let’s expand the concept of Small Business Saturday to Small Business Season over the next three-and-a-half weeks.