Support small, local stores

Published 11:42 pm Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Everybody knows how important Black Friday is to the American economy. Traditionally, it is the day that retailers expect to become profitable for the year, as shoppers turn out to take advantage of the nationally advertised specials, scooping up once-a-year bargains and spending a little extra money at those stores that can afford to heavily advertise in the days leading up to Thanksgiving.

Friday’s store traffic is expected to make it the busiest shopping day of the year, if not the day with the most sales volume. Some national chains plan to open their doors at midnight, with others staggering the times they’ll open to customers throughout the early morning hours. The ensuing chaos — along with limited quantities of the most sought-after and discounted items — ensures that there always are ugly stories in the news about fights, trampled shoppers and other examples of consumer greed on the evening news and in Saturday’s papers.

Less well known in its second year, but no less important to the local economy, is Small Business Saturday. The American Express company started the event last year as a way to promote the many small, local businesses that in the long run have much greater influence on the economy of a region.

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The American economy depends on small businesses, with small firms, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, accounting for 99.7 percent of all American businesses. They employ a bit more than half of all private-sector employees and have accounted for 64 percent of net new jobs during the past 15 years. Your neighbors probably work for a small business somewhere in the area, often at a small, locally owned retailer or restaurant.

More than anything, surveys say — more than tax cuts, greater capital or the ability to hire new employees — small business owners need more customers. Small Business Saturday is the day to help give them what they need.

So get up early on Friday and go try to pick up that insanely cheap flat-screen television or tablet computer. Then go home, have some leftovers and get to bed early so you can get up on Saturday and go find one of the unique stores and restaurants that make Suffolk special. You’re likely to find something there that you’d never have seen in all the frenzy of Black Friday.