Once upon a time I owned a boutique in a small town. Despite having another job as a self employed, independent sales rep, I had always dreamed of owning a store. For eight years I lived that dream but unfortunately that dream had to end. Thank you economy in 2008 and the myriad of shoppers that prefer the big box retailers and chain stores.
I still work as an independent sales rep, selling women's accessories to small, independent stores. These store owners all had the same dream that I did - to own, operate and be successful at their own business. Opening a store is like having a child; you give birth to it, nurture it and watch it grow.
My job depends on these retailers. If they aren't successful, I'm not successful. It is so disheartening to me when yet another store owner tells me that they have to close; that they aren't being supported locally.
When people tell me they are opening a store because they always thought it would "be fun" I want to sit them down and talk. I want to tell them that yes, there are a lot of fun and satisfying elements to store ownership, but there is also so much work involved that they won't know what hit them. It becomes your life.
For many of my retailers, this is their life and that's the way they want it! They work an incredulous number of hours, put in unbelievable hours of thought and planning. It's much more than a full time job; it's the type of thing that you do not leave at the door at 5:00; you bring it home, you lay awake, you worry. You sit up until all hours of the morning planning for events, advertising and anything else you can think of to make your store, THE store.
These retailers that do everything right, have all the best merchandise, staff and customer service still have the one issue that plagues all small stores: people who prefer to shop at chain department stores and big box discount retailers.
Being in different stores every week for my job (and having done it myself), I see the work that is involved to ensure each store has different and unique products. Each owner puts their lifes blood into being successful. They cannot achieve this success without consumers having an understanding of just how vital their business is to them.
These people have families to support and bills to pay. They don't have a major corporation to absorb returns or pay their credit card fees. They don't have hoards of ill informed sales people that you can never find to help you - they have well trained staff that give you personal attention and truly care about your needs.
For the last few years, Small Business Saturday has been a very important event for these stores. A significant amount of sales are done on this day. This weekend, November 26, they all hope that you will find a way to support them. Skip the Black Friday madness shopping on Thanksgiving or at 3 in the morning.
Shop small this Saturday. Spend Thanksgiving with your families and avoid supporting those places that take employees away from a joyous holiday. Then relax on Friday and avoid the crowds. All those sales you think you are cashing in on are nothing more than inflated prices "reduced" to make it look like you are getting a deal. I did it myself, I know. (only when I was going out of business and drowning in debt)
Then visit your local shops on Saturday. Many of them will have special events going on and you might even score a hot cider somewhere. Best of all, you will be helping someone live the American dream.