Shopping small can make a big impact on your community

DSC_0102Long before the Christmas lights are strung and the glittery décor starts popping up in window displays, retailers were hard at work preparing for the holiday shopping season. Store owners describe the months of November and December as “make-or break” for their bottom line, and the long Thanksgiving weekend is one of the – if not the – biggest shopping weekends of the year.

While Black Friday is expected to be the busiest shopping day of the holiday weekend, local retailers are hoping customers will also make plans to ‘Shop Small’ the following day.

In 2011, the president officially recognized Small Business Saturday, which American Express launched in 2010. Momentum for the day has grown ever since. Last year, a record $14.3 billion was spent on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Small Business Saturday encourages people throughout the country to support small, locally owned businesses.

When people choose to spend their dollars locally, those dollars go right back into the community,” said Margaret Hamm, owner of Monograms Plus of Cullman and an Alabama Retail Association member since 1999.

Monograms Plus is a specialty gift and embroidery shop in downtown Cullman’s Warehouse District. The store carries a vast selection of national brands like Pandora, Brighton, Yeti, Vera Bradley and Mud Pie, all under one roof. Hamm employs anywhere from 10 to 12 people, depending on the season.

“When you’re buying your Christmas gift, in person, from your friend or neighbor, you are giving two gifts. You are giving the gift to the recipient, editted margaret hammbut you are also giving the gift of allowing us to maintain our business, pay our employees’ salaries and pay taxes in the community. So, it’s really much more powerful than people think,” Hamm added.

Shopping with locally based businesses, no matter the day of the week or time of the year, returns the most to a local economy. Mom-and-pop, family-owned and local independent retailers are fully invested in the community and are often times the first to support a community project, sponsor a local baseball team or donate an item for a fundraiser.

When you go online and order something, they’re not going to be the ones who give you a donation for your silent auction or for the fall festival. We may give three or four of those because different customers ask us. That’s something that we enjoy, being able to give back,” said Hamm.

According to the National Retail Federation, the overwhelming majority of retailers are small businesses, with more than 98 percent of all retail companies employing fewer than 50 people. The Alabama Retail Association supports Small Business Saturday, and we hope you will too. While you’re out shopping Saturday, make sure to hashtag your photos with #AlabamaRetail and #ShopSmallAlabama to show your support.