November 20, 2012 11:39:00 AM
In a Dispatch online poll a few days ago, we asked readers where they would likely do their Black Friday shopping. Although we make no claim of scientific accuracy, the poll results do at least provide some insight into the attitudes of our community. In that poll, only 24 of 110 respondents said they would shop in Columbus. That is probably not a surprise to local merchants, of course. For some time now, shoppers have been lured to the popular retail complexes in Tupelo, Tuscaloosa and even Birmingham.
It is a painful reality that is reflected by our poll. Less than 25 percent of shoppers will do their shopping in Columbus on Friday.
It is doubtful that shoppers consider the effect this has on our community. When we spend our money locally, especially with locally owned businesses, the vast majority of that money stays in the local economy. It not only protects local jobs, but it also has a direct impact on things such as schools, city services, law enforcement -- virtually everything in our community that is influenced by sales tax revenue. Likewise, Columbus shoppers who spend their money in Tupelo, Tuscaloosa or Birmingham are supporting communities that are not their own.
Of course, in the frenzy that is Black Friday, shoppers are thinking almost exclusively about getting the best deals possible. And so they hit the road to the great malls that are home to all the big-box stores.
Although Columbus retailers are certainly vulnerable to the lure of the big chains and the advantages they enjoy, small, local retailers everywhere feel the sting on being a bit overwhelmed, particularly on Black Friday, long considered the biggest shopping day of the year.
Oddly enough, the best response to this situation comes from a big national entity -- American Express.
The credit card company established what it calls, "Small Business Saturday," two years ago -- a campaign comfortably wedged between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Unlike Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which primarily benefit the large national chains, Small Business Saturday is a plea for everyone -- from the business owners who create local jobs to the customers who buy locally -- to support small businesses that invigorate the economy and keep communities thriving.
American Express estimated that more than 100 million people came out to shop at local, independently-owned small businesses during last year's Small Business Saturday.
Shopping locally should not be viewed as some sort of altruistic effort. The truth is, Columbus is home to some wonderful small businesses that offer great value at great prices.
So, do the Black Friday thing if you must. Make your plans for Cyber Monday.
But let's set aside some time on Saturday to patronize our local businesses.
That's always a great deal.