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Guest editorial: Shop local and shop small on November 30

The following guest editorial was written by Coni McKay, executive director of the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce. Views expressed in guest editorials are also supported by the Echo Press Editorial Board.

As we enter the holiday season, marketing will abound. With big marketing dollars to invest, big businesses can tell the world about their products and services.

But here in our region, the bulk of businesses are small businesses with more limited marketing dollars for advertising. A national marketing campaign named “Small Business Saturday” was created a few years ago by banking giant American Express. Designed to bring attention to purchasing holiday items from small retailers on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the campaign is unique.

Don’t misunderstand. This is NOT a message about gigantic banking organizations. But, why do you suppose a global giant financial company like American Express would create a marketing campaign called “Shop Small?” One reason American Express probably created this initiative is because last year’s Small Business Saturday generated sales nationwide of $5.5 billion. I’m sure AE saw increased use of its credit cards on a large percentage of that big number, which creates a vested interest for them.

I am not telling you how big banks like American Express just want to help small businesses. Those banking giants are good marketers and know how to make money. But, we have a number of local banks in our region, both community banks and larger corporate banks, who do work hard locally every day to help small businesses succeed. Although American Express is a giant in the banking and financial services industry, they did not create Small Business Saturday solely to help small businesses succeed.

I believe there are many reasons why a giant like AE would create a marketing campaign centered on small business. Two of the most important reasons, however, are these and they apply to every local business and bank:

—Local rollover effect of dollars spent in the community.

—Small businesses are very important to every community in America, including Alexandria. Our Chamber of Commerce membership includes more than 70 percent small businesses with fewer than 10 employees.

Most economists and local government representatives will tell you that dollars spent locally in retail establishments “roll over” in the community four times before the money leaves here. Some experts believe there is an even higher rollover factor, up to seven times. Generally speaking, for example, when you spend $50 at a local small business, those dollars get spent locally by the owner and employees of that business and those dollars turn over several times to pay wages and overhead expenses for all businesses involved in the transactions. It is a complicated but beautiful chain of events involving your money.

We all know the term “Black Friday” – the day after Thanksgiving when big nationwide retail stores have the opportunity to turn from a possible loss to a profit for their fiscal year based on the sales on that day. Larger retailers will be offering specials that will deeply discount highly coveted items as a means to increase store sales and foot traffic. This year, because of the way the calendar falls, there are only four weekends for holiday shopping between Thanksgiving and Christmas. There will be a lot of focus on those four weekends, which includes Small Business Saturday.

But, as you plan your holiday shopping list, I encourage you to take time right now to think about the amazing array of choices we have right here in Alexandria. When you “Shop Local and Shop Small,” you will ensure our small businesses can continue to offer all those choices to local shoppers and visitors.

As we enter this holiday shopping season of 2013, I hope you will honor our local business community with your dollars. We all rely on the outcomes!