At the same time, amid national retailer fanfare, advocates of small businesses are urging shoppers not to overlook deals and gift ideas in their own neighborhoods.
The local movement is gaining national traction with American Express-sponsored Small Business Saturday promotions and local business databases. The U.S. Small Business Administration, as well as chambers of commerce and business associations across Maryland, are encouraging participation in Small Business Saturday and other shop local initiatives.
But what types of gifts are available locally? Options abound, according to Sean McEvoy, director of small business resources for the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.
A gift certificate to an independent hair cutter, nail salon or cleaning service, farm-fresh gourmet cheese, wine from a local vineyard, beer from a local brewery, a handmade decoration from an area artisan, custom tailored clothing—all make thoughtful presents for loved ones. As an added benefit, buying small and local makes it easier personally interact with the maker, ask d. questions about the quality and learn about the process.
Options extend beyond traditional Main Street storefronts to include community members with online stores, flea market booths and farm stands. The important distinction about shopping local is how the company’s profits are managed, McEvoy said.
“Once that money is made, it’s going back into the community. Instead of the money being dragged out of the economy and sent back to headquarters somewhere else, it’s a powerful thing for that money to be reinvested back into the community. The goal is for these businesses is to grow and employ more local people,” he said.
Small businesses play an especially important role in Maryland’s economic growth, McEvoy said.
The most recent SBA data, from 2010, shows that 97.5 percent of all employers in Maryland are small businesses. Small businesses employ just over half of the state’s private-sector labor force. Maryland housed a total of 529,743 small businesses in 2010, employing 1.1 million workers.
“The workforce of tomorrow and the future growth of companies really depends on the constant cultivation of small businesses. You never know when you’re going to have the next Under Armour in your backyard. A lot of these types of companies didn’t exist 10 years ago and look where they are now. A lot of them are acorns but they’re future oak trees,” McEvoy said.
According to Ackneil Muldrow, longtime Baltimore businessman and chairman of the Governor’s Commission on Small Business, buying small and local is really about “strengthening communities.”
“It’s very important for shoppers to support the brands and build confidence in the businesses in their communities. If they want more shopping diversity and higher quality, they need to come together and show support for entrepreneurs in their area,” Muldrow said.