When you think about holiday shopping, your mind probably goes to big-box retailers before your neighborhood bookstore or antique shop. But in a time marked by widespread supply chain disruptions and inflation, underdog small businesses deserve our attention.
Enter Small Business Saturday.
Small Business Saturday is an annual event created by American Express that encourages consumers to shop at small businesses during the busy holiday season. It takes place the Saturday after Thanksgiving, which lands on Nov. 27 this year.
Here’s why you should consider shopping small for the holidays, and what to expect.
1. Main street businesses need support
The pandemic hit businesses hard. Roughly 200,000 additional establishments — mostly small ones — permanently closed between March 2020 and February 2021, according to a Federal Reserve report. That’s on top of the pre-pandemic rate of roughly 600,000 annual closures. Many surviving businesses are still at risk, due to factors like deferred rent payments and overdue credit card bills. Your patronage could give them a fighting chance.
“I think we have to ask ourselves as consumers, would we be sad if a retailer closed?” says Lauren Beitelspacher, associate professor and chair of the marketing division at Babson College in Massachusetts. “And if the answer is yes, then we have to find ways to shop and support there when we can.”
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Shopping and dining on Small Business Saturday is one way to show appreciation for local businesses, especially those we’ve depended on during the pandemic, Beitelspacher adds.
Remember the restaurants you got takeout from during stay-at-home orders? Or the skin care boutique that supplied you with hand sanitizer? They were there for us when we needed them; let’s return the favor.
2. Communities and the environment benefit
The dollars you spend on Small Business Saturday make a difference beyond retailers’ doors. Small businesses create local jobs and pay local taxes, which keeps money circulating within communities.
“By doing their shopping at local small businesses, customers can directly support their neighbors and help benefit their local economies,” said Mark Madrid, associate administrator for the Office of Entrepreneurial Development at the U.S. Small Business Administration, in an email.
Shopping small for the holidays can also be environmentally friendly. When locally owned businesses locally source raw materials or manufactured products, it reduces the distance that goods travel, says Madhav Durbha, vice president of supply chain strategy at Coupa Software, a California-based business spend management platform.
“No shipping from across the globe and less packaging make for a smaller carbon footprint,” Durbha says.
3. It can offer a better shopping experience
Ongoing supply chain issues and inflation mean shoppers will likely see less inventory and higher prices this holiday shopping season.
“It’s basic economics, right? The supply is going to be lower, and so the demand is going to be higher, and so the prices are not going to drop like they have in the past. I’m not saying that there won’t be deals, but it might not be deals on the hot-ticket items that we want,” Beitelspacher says.
Flashy doorbuster deals that big-name retailers traditionally flaunt during holiday sales might be harder to come by. Shoppers can expect sold-out items and shipping delays in categories like toys, luxury goods and consumer electronics, Durbha says.
Small Business Saturday shoppers might fare better, depending on what they’re searching for. Shops that sell secondhand goods or items produced in the same community will be shielded from much of the supply chain disruption, Durbha says.
Shopping small for the holidays boasts other advantages, too. Shoppers can receive more personalized service and experience smaller crowds. Many small businesses also entice customers with exclusive discounts, promotions or freebies on Small Business Saturday — so saving money is still on the table.
4. You can find unique gifts
Shop at Target, Walmart or Best Buy and you’ll find little variation among their product selection.
“If you go to a big brand store, you can find that [inventory] in a thousand stores. But if you go to a small, locally owned business, you can find something very special and very unique for the holiday season,” Durbha says.
Maybe that’s handcrafted jewelry, a print made by a local artist, a vintage record player or a gift card for the best bakery in town. See what interesting, rare or one-of-a-kind gifts you can discover on Small Businesses Saturday.
Check your favorite local retailers’ websites and social media pages for store offerings, hours and event announcements in the days leading up to Small Business Saturday. You can also find participating businesses online using the American Express Shop Small map or by exploring hashtags like #shopsmall and #SmallBusinessSaturday.
Then, start gathering ideas for your gift list. You can get a sense of what might be in stock and within budget when Small Business Saturday arrives.
“Or get a head start on your shopping now,” Madrid said. “It’s never a bad time to support small businesses and to help boost your local economy.”
10 random holiday gift ideas for people who have no idea where to start
Whether in vans, campers or school buses, the pandemic grew a new crop of folks who took off on wheels after tricking out their rides. Why not gift a van life adventure? A company outside Boston, Walden Campervans, has nicely done rentals with solar and hot water systems — and plenty of add-ons, including toilets. One of their rides is pet-friendly with a cozy crate. Gift cards can be had and never expire. A three-night minimum rental is required. The maximum is 30 days. No one-way trips. Prices are generally in the $300-a-night range, depending on van, season and extras. See Waldencampervans.com.
This image provided by Ageless Innovation shows the animatronic “Joy for All Companion Pet Pup” by Ageless Innovation. The plush toy has a heartbeat and built-in sensors that respond to motion and touch. Research is encouraging that such companion toys are beneficial to dementia patients.
“There is something radical about loving your hair in a world that tells you not to; it shows an incredible amount of strength and self-love.” So wrote St. Clair Detrick-Jules in the introduction to her book, “My Beautiful Black Hair.” The filmmaker and photographer turned to friends and strangers for 101 natural hair journeys. The book is part love letter to her younger sister, Khloe, who struggled after white classmates called her hair ugly. Detrick-Jules combines the candid portraits she took and narratives she collected with letters of inspiration to her sibling written by some of the women. Chronical Books. $24.95.
Alice Cooper and hot sauce is a pairing that doesn’t roll off the tongue, but in the world of celebrity deals in the food and beverage industry, why not the 73-year-old rocker? Turns out, the OG has always been something of a hot sauce fan and was hands-on in developing three of his own named for some of his hits: Welcome to My Nightmare (mild), Poison (reaper hot) and No More Mr. Nice Guy (medium). Cooper’s favorite part of the process? “Tasting the sauces as we went along to get them right,” he said via email. Made from reaper peppers, one of the hottest around. $29.95 for all three. Also sold separately. Available on UnitedSauces.com, TheChivery.com and other top retailers.
They’re the rage among climate lovers the world over, or parents looking for a new way to haul both groceries and kids. Amsterdam-based Urban Arrow has a nice selection of electric cargo bikes, from the huge, three-wheeled Tender (can carry a boatload) to the compact yet still useful Shorty. Add-on accessories include rain covers, a poncho that connects to the rain covers, and a baby seat adapter with suspension to smooth out bumps. Sold through a network of dealers. These things are heavy and pricey — $6,000 to $7,000 for the Family model, depending on the motor — but may please just the right giftee. Head to Urbanarrow.com.
Until we meet again, Ted Lasso, Warner Bros. has a shop full of gift options for the super fan. There’s the AFC Richmond V-neck sweater, for $59.95, a team jersey for the same price, and a nice selection of hoodies, shorts, T-shirts and accessories, from socks to a “Be a Goldfish” mug. Go to the Ted Lasso shop at Wbshop.com while we wait for Season 3 of the Apple TV+ hit show.
Hues and Cues
This vibrant, color-guessing game took flight on TikTok and has made its way into the hearts of families. It’s also a great party game. A cue master pulls a card and lends clues on one of 480 hues displayed on the board without using the actual names of primary colors. So no red, blue, yellow, etc. Play takes about 30 minutes for three to 10 people. It looks complicated but is amazingly simple — for folks with vocabularies that differentiate hues, anyway. Guessing “grape” or “apple” won’t get the job done. $24.99 from The Op. Widely available.
The company that makes this high-end home rowing machine calls it the Peloton of rowers. It’s sleek, quiet and — for $38 a month — comes with a Peloton-like membership full of pre-loaded watery workouts and live events displayed on a 22-inch touchscreen. It’s heavy at 145 pounds but folds upright for storage with the help of a kit, sold separately. It uses an electromagnetic fabric strip as the drag mechanism to simulate the pull of water. The drag is screen controlled. It requires Wi-Fi but is not enabled for third-party apps like Netflix or Spotify. $2,295 with free standard delivery included. Shop at Hydrow.com.
Sneakersnstuff.com, also known as SNS, has a great looking patchwork Polartec zip jacket and pants set that works for all genders. The color palette screams fall in moss, brown and earthy blue. Available on the site and in the company’s brick-and-mortar stores in Stockholm, London, Paris, Berlin, New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo. The jacket costs $169 and the pants $149.
With “No Time to Die” recently out and the 60th anniversary of the James Bond franchise next year, Taschen is out with a hefty, up to date book for the coffee table covering the making of every single movie. It’s filled with more than 1,000 images, and features oral history from 150 members of casts and crews. Edited by Paul Duncan, “The James Bond Archives: 007” costs $200. Available at Taschen.com.
Interactive: Holiday gift guide 2021
This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.
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