WAGUESPACK: Think Big. Shop Small.

Shopping small can make a big difference.

Thanksgiving has become well known for being the opening bell for the holiday season bargain hunters, all of whom will be out in full force this week, doing everything they can to secure the best possible deal on the “can’t-miss” items of the holiday season.

According to a recent Holiday Shopping Insights survey of 500 consumers who use Twitter at least once a month and are involved in holiday shopping, individual respondents plan to spend nearly $800 on holiday purchases. Forty-six percent of respondents plan to shop on “Black Friday” and 56 percent plan to participate in “Cyber Monday.” Without a doubt, the tantalizing promise of a great bargain has shoppers ready to go.

Ironically, even though shoppers are on the hunt for great deals, they are also prey for the big retailers who have learned to track their predictable habits well.

The big box stores will open early and stay open late to entice their targets, while every email inbox and social media news feed will be filled with spam and posts baited with great deals to be had by any online customer just a couple clicks away. These large-scale retailers have mastered the art of gobbling up every available dollar in the early holiday shopping season, either through their front door or online.

Free markets and consumer choice will rightly reward these big retailers for their strategic marketing efforts. However, it is also important that we remember to share our dollars and holiday cheer with the small business members of our economy.

This Saturday is “Small Business Saturday” which is the day we encourage community members to shop their local, small-businesses to make sure they also have the opportunity to start this holiday season off strong. Estimates show that Americans spent over $5 billion last year on this day in local, small retailers and restaurants all across the country.

Small business is vital to our economy, and their owners are the people you know well in your community. They are your neighbors, the coach of your child’s little league team and the sponsor for countless local clubs and charities. In many cases, they have put their name on the line for credit at the local bank time and time again, all in the hopes that they can provide a product or service their community will value and consume.  Without them, our main streets become ghost towns. Without you, they shut their doors for good.

Considering the impact small business makes on Louisiana’s economy that would be an unnecessary and catastrophic result.

The U.S. Small Business Administration reports that small businesses represent 97 percent of all Louisiana employers and employ over 54 percent of the private-sector labor force.  They employ over 870,000 workers, with a majority of those jobs coming from companies with 20-449 employees.

According to the National Association of Manufacturers, small businesses comprise over 83 percent of Louisiana’s total exporters, which is almost 35 percent of all state exports. On average, these businesses export more than $2.7 million in exports per firm.

The Small Business and Entrepreneurial Council released a report ranking Louisiana as the 21st best state for entrepreneurial-friendly policies and costs impacting small business.  Some of the notable categories had Louisiana ranked fifth lowest for adjusted unemployment taxes and sixth lowest for percentage of personal income paid for state and local property taxes.

Small businesses step up time and time again throughout the year to help their communities.  Community commitment is a foundation of their character and a pillar of their business model. It only makes sense that we take the time to appreciate those values, visit their establishments and include them in our holiday shopping plans. Your dollars spent in locally-owned businesses have three times the impact on your community as dollars spent at national chains.

Think big by shopping small this weekend. It is the right thing to do and is a meaningful way to spread some holiday cheer.

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