Whether you are the type of shopper to venture out on Black Friday – scouring the stores for the best deal, or the type of shopper to let your fingers do the walking and shop online, chances are you will make a purchase on Black Friday. It’s hard not to be tempted by all the amazing offers out there. Who wouldn’t want a flat screen TV for $99 or the opportunity to buy one and get three free shirts! The vast majority of these dealers offered by retailers are loss leaders – meaning they are offering you a discount at a loss in order to get you into the store and buy something at their price. In fact, most of those great deals may not even be so great after all. If you mark everything up by 50%, it’s really not a big deal to offer a 50% discount, is it?
The term Black Friday was coined in the 1960’s to mark the kick-off to the holiday shopping season. The phrase actually was coined in Philadelphia as a term of disparagement by the police officers who did not like the extra street and pedestrian traffic brought by the influx of holiday shoppers. Although there is an urban myth that Black Friday was traditionally the day when retailers went from operating in the red to making a profit in black, this is completely unfounded. Do you really think Walmart operates at a loss from January until November 28?
Whatever the origin of the phrase, Black Friday is here to stay and if you’re a fan of the day, we by no means want to dissuade you from fighting the crowds at the mall and Target and we sincerely hope you are one of the first hundred people in line at Best Buy to get a free pair of Beats headphones. However, you should know there is a better way to kick off the holiday shopping season and that’s to shop your local, community-owned business. True, our deals might not be as flashy and the discounts might not be as deep, but here are several reasons why local is better on Black Friday.
1. Local stores are unique. Target, Macy’s, Best Buy, Walmart. These super stores usually all carry similar merchandise at similar prices. But your local stores will offer the discriminate shopper the opportunity to purchase something different. Whether it’s handmade goods, local products or artistic pieces, your can probably find the perfect present for everyone on your list. Besides, where else are you going to find oral sex candy that pops in your mouth?
2. Local stores help the local economy. Sure we all want to help the workers in China too, but by supporting your local stores your dollars go directly into your community. Your local businessman pays local taxes, employs your neighbors, helps to support local charities, and probably even helps with local government decisions. Compared to chain stores, local stores recycle more of their funds back into the community.
3. Reduce your environmental impact. Don’t get into your car and drive across town to the mall. Local business encourage a smaller global footprint, by usually purchasing from local vendors, requiring less transportation. They tend to use less water and heat. Because they tend to open in town centers and not on the fringes, they reduce congestion, urban sprawl and habitat loss.
4. They have what you want. Local businesses are inherently tuned into the needs of their community. They tend to listen more to their customers and therefore purchase what their customers want. Many big box retailers do their holiday shopping well before the actual holiday. So when they are promoting the hottest toy or product, they are basically telling you what to buy based on their inventory, not on customer demand. However, when we run out of a hot product, I can instantly get on the phone to my vendor and buy more. Last year the hot product was an anal plug. I mean seriously, an anal plug? Who knew? I have no idea 4 weeks before Christmas what the hot holiday product will be but I know when I run out of something, I can get it. By the way, my vendors are local too!
5. Better relationships. If you purchase a product at a big box store, or get one as a gift, you know what a hassle it is to return something without a receipt, outside the 30 day return period, or at anytime that is not within their proscribed company policy. When you buy local, the owner has a much greater interest in providing great customer service and is more likely to make exceptions to a return policy or to solve a problem if something breaks. Local businesses do not have a big corporate policy to hide behind so they have a vested interest in providing great customer service. They can also special order items for you or order more of something if stock is low. Local vendors have far more control and power than big box retailers in their purchasing and policy making decisions. That’s why when a customer buys his wife a piece of lingerie she has no way of fitting into, I have the discretion to exchange it for a larger size!
So visit your local retailers this Black Friday and on Small Business Saturday. Remember, according to the non profit Institute for Local Self-Reliance, for every dollar you spend at a local store, 45 cents goes back into the local economy compared to 13 cents for big box retailers. So shopping local is a win-win for consumers and retailers.