Over the last couple of decades, the nation as a whole has seen the number of mega-stores and big box stores increase; however, at the same time, the number of small businesses have been dwindling. One of the main reasons that shoppers have not revolted is that chain stores can buy in bulk and pass the savings on to the local consumers. All the same, the disappearance of mom and pop stores is a disturbing trend for a number of reasons.
For example, if we consider the hypothetical “Joe’s Hardware” store down there on main street, when Joe turns a profit he will cut himself a paycheck and deposit it in his local bank or credit union. That local financial institution will use that money in part to finance a new car loan for one of Joe’s neighbors. You can see where this is going; money keeps circulating in the community and everyone benefits in one way or another. But when a big box store moves to town and puts Joe and the other hardware stores out of business, where does the profit now go? Largely to shareholders who live elsewhere.
There are few sites more depressing than driving down the main drag and witnessing rows of boarded-up husks of buildings that used to be home to small thriving businesses owned by your neighbors. Urban blight may fuel crime as well. This variety of buildings adds character and charm to your town, helping to create a unique sense of community.
The corporations that own or franchise the mega-stores are motivated solely by the bottom line. If they fail to turn the expected profit margin within a given point in time, they will likely sell off the remaining inventory, board-up the building, hand the loss details over to the accountants and move on. Now you have no store at all.
They sponsor local baseball and soccer teams. The owners belong to organizations like the Rotary Club who provide numerous benefits for the community at large. On the other hand, the owners of the big chain stores live elsewhere and have no ties to the community.
In fact, all together, small businesses provide more employment than large national employers. More jobs translates to more prosperity, home ownership and security for the community as a whole.
These employees and employers are much more personally invested in the success of the business and over time they get to know their customers on a personal level.
Management must make business decisions based on local traditions and consumer demands. National big box stores are much less flexible, adopting a “one size fits all” mentality. The problem here is that what works in New York, for example, may not play so well in Kansas.
So when Small Business Saturday rolls around on 11/29, get out there, shop small and support your local merchants. When you support them, they support you. Remember that Christmas is coming and the holiday season can be the make it or break it time for these small businesses. Don’t limit yourself to just one day though, patronize and support them at every opportunity throughout the year.