Small Business Saturday supports local businesses

Guest Opinion By Brent Donnelly
Thursday, November 18, 2021
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The COVID 19 pandemic confirmed the critical role that small businesses play in our daily lives. Neighborhood restaurants, entertainment venues, service companies, and any business where in person contact was the norm, endured periodic closure and suffered financial hardship. It sounds cliché, but our locally owned small businesses truly are the heart and soul of our cities and towns. Small Business Saturday, Nov. 27, is our chance to thank these local heroes that struggled to survive over the last 18 months.

Small Business Saturday has slowly become an American tradition following the Thanksgiving holiday. Brick-and-mortar businesses across the country promote their best deals of the year in hopes of luring shoppers from online purchases. It was not that long ago when Americans would visit their locally owned downtown retailers to purchase all their holiday gifts for family and friends. Shop owners would decorate their stores with festive lights and ornaments, or create elaborate window displays, to grab the imagination of a passerby to lure them inside their business. The holiday shopping season was a magical time of year, and many of us still hold on to those fond memories today.

Given the dramatic shifts in the retail environment over the last twenty years, those holiday scenes and traditions are in danger of passing into the realm of nostalgic folklore. Recent surveys show that over 80 percent of Americans make regular online purchases throughout the year. Online shopping skyrocketed during the pandemic as more people stayed home to slow the spread of the COVID 19 virus. Many locally owned businesses struggled to find new ways to compete with mega online shopping sites and large retailers that remained open.

To better compete, small business owners have become very innovative in the way they sell and promote their products and services. Some are bringing back the retail traditions of the past by providing personalized one-on-one assistance to customers, and the selling of locally produced niche items found nowhere else in town.

Although online merchants have driven many retailers into closing their doors, small business remains the one stable job creator in most communities across Montana. Here at home, Montana’s 127,000 small businesses continue to generate two of every three net new jobs and deliver essential goods and services in both rural and urban communities. They employ more than 250,000 Montanans, and make this state a better place to live in. As the voice of America’s entrepreneurs, the U.S. Small Business Administration celebrates this nation’s 36 million small businesses that still ignite our local economies and enrich our communities throughout the year.

Each year Small Business Saturday provides a huge boost to the U.S. economy when over 100 million consumers spend more than $20 billion at small shops and local restaurants. With increased consumer confidence in the economy, and a waning pandemic, this year’s Small Business Saturday looks to be even bigger and brighter.

Economic prosperity is very good news not only for America’s small businesses but for society. In so many ways, small businesses act as the bond that holds our communities together. They fund the local tax base, finance local nonprofits and charitable organizations, and create good paying jobs that boost the overall marketplace. By backing our locally owned small businesses, you support the thousands of jobs they create and the families they sustain. Small businesses are the backbone of our democracy, and the solution to our most challenging economic problems.

On Small Business Saturday, please join me in making at least one purchase from a locally owned small business in your city or town. These business owners are the true super stars of our community, and they deserve our support, thanks, and appreciation.

Brent Donnelly serves as the SBA’s Montana District Director based in Helena. He oversees the agency’s programs and services across the state.