Among all the excitement of shopping in the days after Thanksgiving, be sure to take notice of Small Business Saturday. American Express invented the holiday in 2010, but there are plenty of reasons to support the movement. The holiday promotes shopping at small businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, in contrast to visiting the big box stores on Black Friday for pre-dawn sales and ordering online Cyber Monday whatever you don't find at the store on Friday.

Why should you bother to stop at the corner store down the street? There are plenty of reasons that make sense for your pocketbook as well as your community and the environment.

  • Locally and family owned. By shopping in a small business, you are supporting your neighbors and keeping jobs in your city, which makes for a healthier financial environment.
  • Locally produced goods. When products are handmade or homemade, they don't have to travel far and can have a much smaller carbon footprint.
  • Money stays in the community. Many locally owned businesses in turn buy their supplies from other locally owned businesses, which in turn supports more local businesses and reduces the overall pollution caused by transportation.
  • Fill a niche. While national chains concentrate on what their national audience prefers, locally owned stores concentrate on what their specific customers and community want.
  • Flexibility. Small businesses will often order something for you when it's not in stock or be more flexible in its return or payment policies.
  • Personal service. Owners and associates at small businesses often know the ins and outs of their specific industry and products, and can better answer your questions.
  • Unique gifts. When you're looking for something special for your sweetie or that hard-to-please relative, you might have better luck with a small business that isn't catering to the masses.
  • Select inventory. A local business will have already sorted through the vast choices available to offer the best options for the money.
  • Give back. The majority of small business owners give back to their community. Buying from them is a way to say thank you and encourage them to continue.

Where to find locally owned businesses

Whether it's the Saturday after Thanksgiving, or any day of the year, think locally first. Small businesses are often clustered together to make shopping more convenient. Bypass the shopping mall and the big box stores on the edge of town, and search for these shopping outlets instead.

Farmers markets: Not only do you find local produce at farmers markets, you can often find other local foods such as honey, meat, eggs and baked goods. Many markets also include locally grown flowers and plants and handmade crafts.

Antique malls: These are often organized as rows of booths of individual sellers. Along with antiques you may find foreign-inspired décor, Americana, vintage clothing and all styles of jewelry.

Strip malls: Your corner shopping center is often the best place to find small service providers such as barbers, bakers and repairmen of all kinds.

Town center: Does your downtown remind you of small-town America? Most likely it's packed with businesses that have been there for generations.

Of course, the best way to find a small business is by word of mouth. Small businesses, no matter where they're located, stay alive based on the advertising their customers do for them. When you have a good experience with a small, locally owned business, the best thing you can do is tell your friends.

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