November 21, 2012

Small Business Saturday means to focus attention on local merchants after Black Friday fracas

Studies show dollars spent at local businesses enrich entire community, storekeepers say

By Kaitlin Schroeder kschroeder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Corey Ellis, owner of Mooseville, a Farmington gift shop, said he and other area businesses are relying on shoppers to buy local this holiday season.

And a recent study shows buying from independently owned businesses close to home is not only a win for business owners like Ellis, but for area residents as well.

"It's huge for us. The little guy helps keep the downtown vibrant," Ellis said. To make his point, a moose statue outside his shop holds a large sign urging people to shop local.

Ellis and other Maine small-business owners, are hoping to cash in on Small Business Saturday, a response to Black Friday and Cyber Monday promoted by American Express.

According to a study by the Maine Center for Economic Policy, money spent at a locally owned business puts about 75 percent more money into the area economy than money spent at chain stores.

The study found that for every $100 spent at a locally owned business, $58 goes back into the local economy. Only $33 stayed local when the same amount was spent at a chain store.

The local economic boost is partly because businesses owned by residents tend to use nearby services, including marketing and legal assistance, and they have local management, according to Garrett Martin, executive director of the center. Otherwise, the money would go to corporate headquarters elsewhere.

Because locally owned businesses put more money into the area economy, Martin said this holiday season shoppers should shop at chains only if there isn't a nearby alternative.

"They should see if they have exhausted their local options before they look elsewhere," he said.

In his experience, he said shopping at a small business is a better experience than going to a chain store.

"Going out on a limb, I think if the owner of the business is also running the cash register, their sense of customer service is heightened," he said.

Kimberly N. Lindlof, president and CEO of Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, said she is not sure how many regional stores are planning on participating with Saturday sales, but she said the shop local movement is something that should be encouraged.

"I think it's a great idea to motivate consumers to go to small businesses. They're a wonderful alternative to the malls," she said.

Martin said the economic police center has not studied how strongly people in Maine support the movement to shop close to home.

"But because Maine is a state by and large of smaller communities, I think people have a greater connection to their local economies than, let's say, suburban New Jersey," Martin said.

He said, though, that some may argue it's not always possible, because rural communities have fewer resources and residents are forced to shop online or at chains in nearby cities.

Even if people don't normally shop at small businesses close to home, they understand that they are good for the community, he said.

"Most people get that there is a benefit to buying from locally owned businesses," he said.

 

Kaitlin Schroeder-- 861-9252
kschroeder@mainetoday.com

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