Let’s make no small plans — except for shopping
By Susan Frick Carlman firstname.lastname@example.org December 13, 2012 11:00PM
Susan_Carlman_01 Jonathan Miano / Staff Photographer Sun Publications 2009-02-09
Updated: January 15, 2013 6:05AM
’Tis the season to think small.
Oh, I know that’s not quite how the chorus usually goes. But these are, well, interesting times we’re in.
The tug of the dollar — and its finite capacity for stretching — has caused many of us to behave in ways we otherwise might not. Case in point: jumping up from the Thanksgiving table a couple weeks back, just to go stand in line at the big box store around the corner, pick up a ridiculously marked-down treasure and come away with a few extra bucks in our pockets. I don’t mean to offend, but that’s just plain wacky behavior by almost any measure.
Most of us love the thrill that comes with an unbelievable deal. And most of us have fewer of those stretched-out dollars to mete out to our retailing friends than we did in days past.
Between that and seemingly everybody having more to do and less time to do it than we used to, it’s hard to criticize the decision to head to one of the big-box stores, where you can find pretty much everything on your long and varied shopping list, right there under one roof. Or you can knock off most of your shopping by logging on to amazon and getting it done without even taking off your slippers. A few clicks is all it takes.
Main Street U.S.A. has been sputtering in the last couple of years, as you may have noticed. Small shops have closed their doors, one after another. Retail spaces have sat vacant for one, two, three years. Things have begun to turn, thankfully, but it’s been grim — and healing takes time.
That’s one reason why an event like Small Business Saturday is such a good thing. It happened Thanksgiving weekend, and it apparently drew shoppers to downtown Naperville, wallets in hand.
“We definitely had people mention that they were shopping downtown because it was Small Business Saturday,” said Kellyn Machacek, who owns Baubles on Jefferson Avenue.
The unpretentious jewelry store has a big inventory of cool, reasonably priced accessories — but it’s small. The good news is that diminutive dimensions seem to be turning into an asset. People are developing a more frequent habit of shopping small.
American shoppers laid down some $5.5 billion at small businesses on Nov. 24, according to a survey released by the National Federation of Independent Business and American Express. And Small Business Saturday apparently is catching on, the two organizations reported; awareness of the observance doubled in the two weeks leading up to the day.
Maybe, just maybe, it reflects a shift in mindset.
“I find that more and more — that people are making a point to shop, and tell me that they shop, at small-business stores,” said Machacek, who has run her small business for eight years. “I get that more and more, more than I ever have.”
The thing is, every day should be Small Business Day. Spending our consumer dollars at independently owned retail establishments doesn’t just make it more likely that we’ll find something unique and wonderful to give at holiday time; it also helps those in our communities thrive as entrepreneurs, and helps ensure that they’ll remain in their homes, with food on their tables. Surely that’s at least as worthwhile an investment of our hard-earned income as a widget from Walmart or a trinket from Target.
Look at it as Support Your Neighbor Day. And it needs to come lots more often than once a year.