COLUMN: Shop small businesses this holiday season

With the end of Thanksgiving signaling the start of the holiday season, people everywhere are taking down their DIY-fall decorations, un-boxing their Christmas ornaments and beginning their holiday shopping. 

While the holiday season regularly brings relief to small businesses, the recent shift toward online shopping has made it challenging for these businesses to compete against massive corporations for sales. This holiday season, while we all continue to shop for the best holiday deals, we should make a conscious effort to support the small businesses that make out communities different than others. 

Each year, Black Friday marks the beginning of the busiest season for American retailers. In the past week alone, millions of shoppers braved the chaos of Black Friday and Cyber Monday in hopes of finding irresistible doorbuster deals. 

For the past several years, online shopping has increased drastically during the holiday season. Americans spent nearly $4 billion online shopping on Thanksgiving Day alone, a 28 percent increase from the sales of just one year ago. Brick-and-mortar stores have also supported the shift to online shopping in hopes of cashing in on the profits.

Online shopping provides a convenient and inexpensive way to purchase holiday gifts. But no matter how tempting it is to do your holiday shopping online, in your pajamas and in the comfort of your own home, you should go and support local businesses instead. 

Small businesses represent a critical component of the American economy. As of 2013, small businesses employed 56.8 million Americans, which is 48 percent of the private workforce. Furthermore, supporting small businesses is great for local economies, with nearly two-thirds of every dollar spent at a small business staying within that community. 

Not only does shopping at small businesses help your community, but it also helps that business owner’s dream. When you support small businesses, you’re not lining the pockets of a wealthy CEO or paying for the company car of a corporate manager. 

Instead, you’re supporting the dreams of everyday people within your community. This time of year, while chain stores are full of replicated company-wide floor models, small businesses offer more rare and personalized alternatives. 

Whether it's ordering gingerbread cookies from a small bakery, eating dinner at a local restaurant or buying handmade Christmas cards from artists at your city’s holiday market, there are a number of ways that shoppers can support small businesses.

For many larger corporations, the holiday season is just another chance to increase already-high profits. For small businesses owners, however, the holiday season represents an opportunity for so much more.

When people shop small businesses, you help grow the college fund for a child, put down the mortgage on a new home, and place gifts under a family’s Christmas tree. Given the abundance of ways that small businesses can benefit a community, you can be sure that a gift bought from a small business is a gift that gives twice.

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