Is a spike in your blood pressure any way to start the holiday season?
That is almost certain to occur on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, when lemming-like, many people will rise and rush to their automobiles, sit in traffic for hours, and arrive just in time to jostle for a prime parking spot at the mall.
Already pulsating, your anxiety level reaches cruising altitude, as you think the most uncharitable thoughts of the people in line in front of you: The ones who couldn't have a rough estimate of cash, or their credit card, ready in their hands, but had to wait until they approached the cashier before fumbling through their purses and wallets. The ones with a lot of questions for answers clearly printed on the box.
Here's the best Black Friday advice of all: Wait a day, and shop Small Business Saturday. The economy and your own blood pressure will thank you.
The concept is simple: instead of one-stop shopping at the nearest big box store or giant mall, or sitting at home and ordering online, you shop at small, locally-owned businesses for things you simply can't find anywhere else. Instead of dealing with temporary workers who don't know the merchandise, there's a good chance you'll be dealing directly with the owner, who cares very much about making you happy, so you come back time and time again.
Want even more good reasons to choose Main Street over the mall?
When you shop at a chain store, most of the money goes back to some corporate office somewhere, but when you shop on Main Street, most of that money stays on Main Street.
Some small-business owners, instead of laying people off, have cut their own salaries to keep their full complement of employees. Others have dipped into savings or taken out second mortgages to keep their doors open, or to avoid cutting back employee hours. Think corporations act in this order?
Begun in 2010, the campaign to shop small has yielded big dividends for America's and Montana's economy. Last year, shoppers spent $5.7 billion at locally-owned shops and restaurants on Small Business Saturday, according to a survey conducted by American Express and the National Federation of Independent Business. Last year's total marked a 3.6 percent increase over 2012's event.
This summer, Gallup asked people to tell it how much confidence they had in a variety of American institutions. Small business came in second at 62 percent, just behind the military at 74 percent, but way ahead of big business, which had only 21 percent. A few years ago, the Pew Foundation found small businesses the most trusted group in America.
Alarmingly, however, a Brookings Institution report issued this year claimed a 30-year low in American entrepreneurship. Holiday shopping is a needed shot in the arm for the small-business owners who employ more working Americans and generate almost every new job, and it starts with you.
Of course there are things big box stores have that Main Street shops don't, but you might be surprised at the variety bricks-and-mortar stores on Main Street do have. So how about starting a new shopping tradition this year? Make the Friday after Thanksgiving just an ordinary Friday. Start your holiday shopping Saturday on Main Street, and what you can't find there, go to the malls later. That new economic ecosystem will benefit everyone.
Riley Johnson is Montana state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, America's voice of small business.