With the holiday shopping season well upon us, the question of where to shop again comes to the fore. And the choices are endless. As a consumer, I want to be informed. My goal is to shop well and wisely. When I buy groceries, for example, I avoid foods that are not grown in the United States. (While our agricultural methods are not perfect, the U.S. food industry remains the most regulated in the world.) So too, before buying cars, appliances, or electronics, I read consumer publications that report test results on these products. And in my efforts to be a smart shopper, I pay attention to a store’s reputation and word-of-mouth advertising among friends and associates.
As shoppers, our choices are essentially the mall, the Internet, or small, locally
owned businesses. Each has its merits. But it wasn’t until I became a business owner in a small town that I recognized the true value of small, locally owned
businesses for both shoppers and the well-being of the community in which they’re located.
Small business owners work hard, well beyond the store's published hours, because they love what they do. I can tell you firsthand, I ABSOLUTELY love what I do. Small business owners are knowledgeable and excited about the products they sell. Many small businesses are specialty shops where customers find things they can’t find in the mall. When I’m in search of a particular item, I enjoy hearing whether the business owner has tried the product and their experience
with the item. This personal exchange transcends the relationship between customer and business owner and extends well into the community. Oftentimes,
friendships grow out of the small business shopping experience because of the
level of trust between owner and customer. While the business may be small, the shopping experience is profoundly personal.
Having said all this, I confess to loving the Internet, both as a resource and a marketing venue for my store, as much as anyone. But nothing beats the personal, small-town shopping experience. The business community is what gives the town its unique charm and character upon which traditions are built and relationships are formed.
So, as we bid farewell to another “Small Business Saturday,” remember that the 2011 Christmas shopping season is just beginning…and it really does matter where you shop!