Small Business Saturday Is A Rallying Cry

Local municipality and county level governments are becoming more aware of, and in many cases beginning to promote, their local small businesses.

Four years ago, American Express jumped in with Small Business Saturday as an answer to the growing Black Friday phenomenon.  To be completely honest, Amex cares no more about the success of small businesses than they do about big box and internet retailers — you will see them promoting Cyber Monday just as much.  (What Amex really promotes is consumers using Amex cards and taking twice the fees from all merchants vs. Visa and Mastercard.  Call it a 1.5% added advertising fee.)

Nonetheless, cities and counties across the nation are making “proclamations” of Small Business Saturday because they know that internet merchants are not supporting the local tax base, while their local small business owners are.

As Vice-Chair of our local Small Business Council of the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce, I have been the recipient of these proclamations on behalf of our community several times.  Each time, I get a couple of podium minutes to address the community on government television.  I always try to tell a new story that my neighbors can relate to.  (See article from The Mercury)

Is it working?  It seems that each year, Black Friday gobbles up another day prior to Friday, and those who report the results to us show big box sales flat to slightly higher, internet sales significantly higher, and independent small retailers are down.  No, as a marketing effort it really is not working.

But the silver lining here is that local government is feeling the pinch of small business loss.  After years of turning towns into highway rest stops for chain stores, tax-increment financing schemes (TIF), and other local government handouts to build the big box retailers up while jilting small business owners who never got those breaks, some local elected officials are beginning to realize that they have been biting the hand that feeds them, while out-of-town corporations are stealing their food.

Small Business Saturday will likely fade, but we must not let small government support for small business fade.  Rather, we need to fan those flames into a greater government concern and pre-disposition toward locally owned and operated small business so that when it comes to regulatory fairness, private market job creation, antitrust law reform and other badly needed initiatives, those of us who take the risk to be small business owners are listened to and allowed to help craft those policies.

Jeff Koenig