With all the hoopla surrounding Black Friday and the constant influx of ads from big-box stores, the small businesses that serve as the backbone to our community can get lost in the shuffle.
But they shouldn’t.
Not only can you find amazing, unique items at locally owned stores, but Local First Arizona, a nonprofit advocacy group, says that when you shop at locally owned businesses, your money is recirculated over and over, creating up to 75 percent more tax revenue to our community and state.
“We need to work together to raise awareness on how important it is and work on their conscience a little about keeping their tax dollars local,” said Margo Susco, owner of Hydra, an alternative clothing store on East Congress Street in downtown.
Locally owned stores also use local services, buy supplies at local shops and donate to local charities, said Autumn Ruhe, owner of Mildred and Dildred, a toy store at La Encantada shopping center.
To create that awareness and to shift the way people shop, two annual “shop local” movements will start on Black Friday, kicking off the holiday shopping season.
Local First Arizona will launch Shop Local month, which runs from Nov. 28 through Dec. 24. It encourages shoppers to pledge to buy local during the holiday season online at localfirstaz.com. Many local businesses will have special deals for consumers participating in Shop Local Month, starting with Black Friday.
Small Business Saturday, which was started by American Express in 2010, encourages consumers to shop at small businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. And it offers an incentive.
Shoppers who register their American Express Card on shopsmall.com will get a $10 credit for in-store purchases of $10 or more at participating local businesses. American Express will give the $10 credit for up to three purchases. It also gives free promotional materials to small businesses to promote the day.
Thanks to initiatives such as Small Business Saturday and Shop Local Month, more people have started to shift the way they shop, said Nicole Leinbach-Reyhle, spokeswoman for Small Business Saturday. Last year $5.7 billion was spent at small businesses, nationally, during the holiday shopping season, she said.
Small Business Saturday “definitely brings business,” said Hazel Rugg, owner of Picante Designs, a specialty store offering Mexican folk art, clothing and Day of the Dead items. “It makes a lot of people very aware. Local First is another great organization. Tucson has a lot of loyal shop-local people and it’s very encouraging.”
“People want to shop local,” said Christine Cooper, co-owner of The Candle Factory. “I couldn’t imagine the community without local businesses. People want to keep as much of the money in Tucson as possible. People ask me all the time, ‘are you locally owned?’ When I tell them we’re not only locally owned, but we’re the owners and the only employees, I might as well have opened their wallets for them.”
Excitement from consumers to shop small has been felt at Pop Cycle, a North Fourth Avenue store selling art made from recycled goods, as well. “A lot of people get excited about it,” said Shannon Rigg, co-owner of the store. “For instance, my mother-in-law is really excited. It seems to be striking a chord with people that might normally go to the mall, so it’s been really good.”
The decision to patronize a small business has a lot to do with the experience it provides, Leinbach-Reyhle said. “A lot of the reasons people enjoy the towns they live in is because of the charm small businesses bring to it,” she said. “Going to a local main street rather than a chain store delivers such a different experience and I think consumers can relate to that.”
Hydra’s Susco says the experience her customers receive in her store is why she is still in business. Hydra recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, weathering recession and street car construction. And it opened a store in Bisbee a year ago.
“We want to make sure everybody has a fantastic experience. We take our product knowledge seriously and try to be competitive on pricing,” she said. “I think it’s one of the reasons we’re still here.”
Just like larger chain stores, local retailers are gearing up for a busy shopping season by stocking the shelves and figuring out what deals and specials to offer.
Art & Soul, an east-side shop that sells gifts and art pieces, 95 percent of them made in the U.S.A., is unsure of what to expect, since it is the store’s first holiday season.
“It’s our first holiday,” said Kim Hite, co-owner of the store. “It’s been a challenge trying to figure out what people will want. So, the store is fairly full and we have new artists on board.”
Ruhe, the owner of Mildred and Dildred, said her store is stocking up on lots of toys.
“I mean lots. You should see our backroom. It’s packed,” Ruhe said. “And we’re still getting more in every day. We try to anticipate what our customers will want. It’s always a bit of a guessing game. ... We’re hoping to have the perfect item for every kid on our customers’ lists.”
There are lots of choices out there when it comes to shopping. And I know it’s not always convenient to go to local shops for every purchase. But, if we all make a little effort, and spend at least some of our dollars at local stores, we can make a big difference in our community.