Today is Small Business Saturday, a tradition that began several years ago to counteract the guerrilla-like shopping tactics of Black Friday. Small businesses can’t offer the deep discounts of most retailers, but they offer other perks you won’t find at the mêlée of the shopping mall.
My family never did the Black Friday thing. Maybe I was raised to be a bad capitalist, but even my sister-in-law, whose middle name is won’t-buy-it-without-a-coupon believes the discounts the day after Thanksgiving aren’t worth losing sleep over. Often if you wait a couple of weeks retailers will lower prices on comparable items.
After working on my manuscript, I only left my house yesterday to return books to the library and check my mailbox. No shopping was involved.
Today I had one trip: to the Edmonds Bookshop in Edmonds, WA to purchase a gift for one of the kids in my family. (We adults have resolved not to exchange presents as none of us needs ONE MORE THING in our homes. We donate to charities in one another’s names.) Even the kids have more than enough toys, so of course writer and former librarian me gives books as gifts.
Edmonds, a charming town on Puget Sound north of Seattle, was teeming with shoppers, yet I managed to find a parking space close to the store. It had a fifteen minute limit. For me shopping in a bookstore, 15 minutes is a good idea, otherwise I might buy more than I need. The bookshop was crowded, and I sidled my way to the Children’s book section. Within a few minutes, a young woman approached and asked if I needed any help.
In a giant retail store, it’s unlikely a clerk will wander through and offer help. My experience with chain bookstores is you wait at a counter to ask, and the under-appreciated clerk, who has just dealt with a gaggle of rude shoppers, will point to a section of books and turn to help the next customer.
Since I am unfamiliar with books for the age group (which I won't reveal since I don't want the recipient of my gift to know just yet,) I took advantage of browsing through the young woman’s several suggestions. I chose two.
Cognizant of my time limit, I glanced briefly at other shelves, and stood in line to pay. After the clerk rang me up, she asked if I wanted my items gift wrapped. No charge. “Sure. That’s one less present to wrap.” I was even able to choose from three paper patterns.
As I waited for my gift to be wrapped, the store’s proprietor handed out canvas tote bags with Shop Small imprinted on both sides.
Even you missed shopping today, make it a goal to buy at least one of your holiday gifts at small business. It will make a difference to the man or woman who owns the business and his or her employees.