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Sherman Says: Small Business Saturday should be a weekly routine for local shoppers

BUFFALO — The retail marketplace has evolved a great deal in the last decade, with more and more consumers opting to place orders online or direct all of their dollars to “big box” stores, in the name of one-stop shopping.

During the last three years, there has been a growing movement to recognize smaller retail operations during Small Business Saturday. It is always held on the Saturday following Thanksgiving, and this year, the observance will take place on Nov. 30.

The date is determined to intentionally collide with “Black Friday” the previous day. The urge to open stores on Thanksgiving evening gets worse each year, as retailing giants seem to think that most of us cannot resist the urge to shop before the day comes to a close.

These people will tell you Black Friday’s name is derived from the observation that a spike in sales puts their ledgers in the black ink of profitability, rather than the red ink of taking a loss.

Families of retail employees usually link the name with stress, long hours, unhappy customers and lack of parking.

Founded by American Express in 2010, Small Business Saturday is a refreshing breath of fresh air.

“Some people put everything into their work, their name on the door and their heart into their community. Small Business Saturday is a day to show our support. A day to shop at stores owned by our friends and neighbors. And do our part for the businesses that do so much for us. On Nov. 30, let’s get out and shop small,” reads the American Express pitch.

I like that warm and fuzzy approach.

I do not like the cold-hearted offering I received earlier this week from GottaDeal.com, a site that brags it has been covering Black Friday online, for the past decade.

“We focus on acquiring and posting leaked copies of the Black Friday sales, to let consumers plan ahead for their holiday shopping,” said its email. “Please don’t hesitate to let us know if you have specific questions or would like to be alerted when we post new leaked ads (we already have quite a few ads, even though Black Friday is a month away).”

Congratulations.

The site went on to state that the trend of stores opening earlier than ever last year will continue.

“Most stores opened at midnight, and a few opened earlier on Thanksgiving night. The reports from retailers continued to be positive. We expect these early opening times to continue, this year. Those stores who chose to open at the “old” Black Friday opening times such as 5 a.m. on Friday morning lost out on a big chunk of sales, last year.”

Can these people hear themselves, when they utter those words? Is it too much to ask to let nearly every person in the country take a well-deserved break with his or her family? Is it too much to ask to let retail employees – as well as shoppers – take a deep breath before the final rush toward Christmas shopping?

One area GottaDeal.com focused on was gifts for children.

“Many of our visitors predicted that some of the hottest items this year will be toys. Last year, a very popular item was the various tablets designed for kids. We expect that to continue, with new models designed for children,” it read.

Tablets are a nice gift for students familiar with technology, but are so sterile and impersonal. A trip to a locally owned toy or gift store could provide a stuffed animal, doll house, art supplies or model car.

Stopping to examine the inventory of a locally owned bookstore could open a world of vivid imagination, stellar photography or a trip through history. Books don’t require batteries, either.

Clearly, nationwide retailers and online marketplaces are here to stay. But there is also a place at the table for small-business owners who depend on steady sales to remain open, employ our neighbors and keep our street corner economy afloat.

General information for Small Business Saturday can be found at www.shopsmall.com.

David F. Sherman is managing editor of Bee Group Newspapers and a columnist for the Weekly Independent Newspapers of Western New York, a group of community newspapers with a combined circulation of 286,500 readers. Opinions expressed here are those of the author. He can be reached at dsherman@beenews.com.


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