There are more than 29.6 million small businesses in the U.S., employing nearly 48 percent of the nation's workforce. In fact, small businesses account for the largest number of employers — 99.9 percent according to the Small Business Administration (SBA).
National Small Business Week — April 30 through May 6 — and Small Business Saturday — the day after Black Friday in November — are two perfect opportunities to show your local small businesses some love. But don't limit yourself: Buying local has a positive effect on your wallet and community any time of year.
Here are a few reasons you should skip major retailers and instead opt to shop local.
Small Business Owners Create More Jobs
When you buy small, you're helping a local company stay profitable and encouraging growth. A growing small business can afford to take on additional employees, reducing unemployment rates in your area.
The SBA estimates that small business owners create two out of every three net new jobs in the U.S. That number could go up if consumers shifted just 10 percent of their business to local organizations. Local First Arizona, a nonprofit supporting local business in the state, estimates that a community of half a million people could create $53 million in new wages if they shop small.
Why should you care? Unemployment precedes poverty. Not only does it cost more to be poor, neighborhoods start to decline as occupants are strapped for money to maintain their homes. Crime rates increase. So do your local taxes as they increase to pay for more law enforcement and social services.
By patronizing local businesses during National Small Business Week and beyond, you're also creating more job opportunities for friends, family and neighbors. That means they likely won't be hitting you up for a loan down the road.
More Dollars Stay In Your Local Community
For every $100 you spend at a local small business establishment, $43 goes directly back into the community. When you give your business to a national chain, only $13 return to your community.
Benefits to the community reach even deeper than your money going to someone local. The small business spends money in your community to do business, such as paying employees and buying needed utilities, equipment and inventory supplies. Those other local businesses recirculate the money back into the community in the same manner. Also, the business owners and employees spend the money they make in the local economy. Buying local equals building a strong local economy.
Small Business Owners Give Back
In addition to building up the economy, small business owners also often give back to their local community. As residents with a deep stake in the welfare of the community in general, it's not surprising that small businesses gives a higher percentage of revenue to their communities than national chains.
Small businesses also tend to be generous with their goods and services. For example, according to Sean Shapiro, CEO of Reliant Roofing in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., the folks at Reliant Roofing regularly give back to those in need in the community. And every time you buy a product from Twill, the clothing and accessories company gives a second product to a charity of your choice.
Small Business Offer Better Customer Service
Many household names like Tom's of Maine, Ben and Jerry's, Callaway Golf and Dogfish Head got their start as small businesses. It wasn't just their products that pushed them over the 500-employee mark that kicked them up into the big business category; it was also their customer service.
Small businesses have a small client base compared to big box retailers, and they want to keep their customers. "Small businesses usually need your business more than larger business due to typically smaller customer bases and smaller markets that they serve," said Jeff Kear, owner of Planning Pod, an all-in-one event planning platform. "They are more likely to go above and beyond to add value, which can include more attentive customer service."
Although you might find a one-stop shop for all your consumer needs in a big box store, there's nothing like the relationships you'll build when you shop small. Local business owners learn about their repeat customers' needs and preferences, often anticipating your need, special ordering items or staying open late for just for you. That translates to more money saved in both time and fuel.
Small Businesses Offer Expert Craftsmanship
Whether it's locally grown organic food in a mom-and-pop restaurant or market, handmade clothing or other retail items, your local small business person is usually sharing their passion with the world. Hand-hewn furniture might not be as cheap as putting something together from a big box store prefabricated kit. However, you'll have a quality piece that lasts over time and might even become a family heirloom.
You might pay less than $300 for a prefabricated pine sideboard you assemble yourself. You'll save money over the $900 or more that you'll pay for a handmade sideboard crafted from reclaimed wood, but there's a big difference. Fiberboard backing and drawer bottoms will warp and start coming apart after a few years and you must eventually replace it. A handcrafted solid wood item will last for generations.
Small Business Owners Can Give Expert Advice
Although there's a YouTube video for nearly everything, nothing replaces expert advice. Whether you're trying to figure out which plant won't bake or freeze in that bare spot in your yard or the best deck paint to whether all seasons, it's good to talk to someone in the know.
"Small business owners take the time to get to know the consumer and give them sound advice," said Aziza Hana, office manager of the cleaning service 10BucksaRoom.com. "They are masters of their craft, as opposed to being an hourly worker in a big box shop that might not be as knowledgeable."
The difference in your wallet can translate to hundreds of dollars saved by getting the job done right the first time. With a smaller client base, local business owners want your repeat business, so you can trust them to take the time with you to get it right.
You Might Reap Hidden Benefits
When money's tight, it's easiest to charge your purchase to one of the fairly easy-to-get big box store credit cards, keeping you in the habit of using major retailers. If your store card is co-branded with a Visa, American Express, Discover or Mastercard logo, you can also use it at your local small business. Dillard's, Sam's Club, Costco and Walmart are just a few co-branded store cards you might have in your wallet.
Build up reward points by using your credit cards at small businesses. Although small businesses pay a transaction fee, the amount is typically less than 5 percent per transaction. Debit transactions cost them more than credit. Visa and Mastercard transactions cost the least, which explains why American Express and Discover credit cards aren't accepted everywhere.
If you plan to shop local for Small Business Saturday just after Thanksgiving this year, bring your American Express card. Each year the credit company offers perks like rebates on your bill or double reward points to shop small during the winter holiday season.
Click to read more about why one foodie spends Small Business Saturday at the farmers market.