Every year there are some chambers that are hesitant to vocally and visibly back a shop small campaign or create a local buying initiative.
Some say they don’t want to single out a particular business type, and big businesses are chamber members too. But a “shop small” marketing push doesn’t take anything away from the giants of retail. This is one of the common misconceptions that might hold your chamber back from vocally championing small businesses and embracing an entire Small Business Season(TM) (and not just one day) this holiday season.
If your chamber isn’t supporting small businesses specifically with marketing assistance or a “shop small” campaign, it may be due to one of these four common myths.
4 Misconceptions About “Shop Small” Campaigns
Myth #1: If I Vocally Support Small, I’m Alienating Big Business
This is the most common misconception we hear from chambers, but the face of retail is changing. Large retail and small retail are not always in direct competition. They can live together peacefully. Take a look at Amazon and Walmart’s online stores. They both allow others to sell on their website and Amazon even promotes small business sellers with a small business logo to make sure those who want to shop small on their site can. These mega-retailers understand there’s enough pie for everyone and they want to share it.
The only time a small business program runs the risk of alienating big business is if you paint big business out to be the bad guy. In fact, big businesses can be large supporters of shop small business initiatives because they know that there’s room for everyone. Lowe’s, for instance, instituted a program to help bring entrepreneurs and their ideas to market. If you have a good relationship with one of your large businesses, don’t avoid a “shop small” or shop local campaign, see how they might want to become involved.
Myth #2: Shopping Small Is Expensive
While small businesses might not have the ability to offer those ridiculously attractive loss leaders that the big businesses do, that doesn’t make them more expensive. For one, you may save money shopping closer by not putting additional miles on your car and saving money on gas.
Plus, for every $100 spent locally, $68 of it stays in town, as opposed to $43 spent at a national chain. If you look at it like that, every dollar you spend locally has a greater yield on the investment in your town.
Many small businesses offer bonus values such as tastings to make sure you like what you’re buying or extras like gift wrapping.
Additionally, small businesses will be more aware if something they are carrying is sub-par because the owner is usually closer to their customer. If they’re not in the store, there’s likely only 1-2 employees separating them from the customer and they will be notified if an item or service is receiving a lot of complaints. That means they may be likely to have higher quality items in their store because it’s their name/reputation on the line.
Finally, the market keeps product pricing in line through price comparison. Small businesses may not have a loss leader bringing in customers but on average their products and services will be competitive because they have to be in order to stay in business.
Myth #3: Small Businesses Don’t Offer Enough Variety
Small businesses certainly don’t have the sheer volume of goods as a megaretailer but they also don’t buy products or offer services based on a national schedule. One of the things that surprised me when I moved to a year-round warm climate was that bathing suits, patio furniture, and grills followed the same end-of-season sales that I saw in a climate that had actual ends-of-seasons. That’s because national chains think nationally. Stores are told to liquidate items to make room for the next batch. They don’t care if the Florida store could sell them year-round or not. They’re told to get rid of them.
A small business doesn’t have that problem. They can carry what people are interested in. If flip flops sell in your town in December, you’ll be able to find a pair in a small business. Plus, small businesses carry what is popular in your area so it’s almost like your town is selecting what’s on the shelf of a small business. If it isn’t selling, you know the small business will adjust accordingly and not based on a predetermined schedule from somewhere else.
Myth #4: It Doesn’t Matter
Years ago, I was haggling with a car dealer. We started off on opposite ends and slowly came closer and closer to the number I was hoping for. Finally, it came down to about a $1,000 difference between what I wanted to pay and what he would sell the car for. He kept saying that was his final number. I shook my head indicating the deal wasn’t going to happen.
Growing frustrated with me he said, “What’s the big deal? Why’s it matter? Do you know what $1,000 is over the life of a car loan? It’s a couple of extra bucks per payment.”
And I said, “Exactly. Which one of us is going to feel the difference of a couple of bucks more in their budget? You or me? I’m guessing it’s me.”
The same is true of a small business. Amazon ships 1.6 million packages a day — 66,000 orders an hour. Do you think that switching one purchase from them to a local store will make any difference? But a single purchase from a small business could be the difference between them sending an employee home for the day or not.
This holiday season, don’t hesitate to encourage people to support local businesses and be sure to fully embrace a “shop small” campaign. After all, local businesses are the quintessential underdogs. And everyone loves a good underdog story with a happy ending, especially at Christmas.