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Try local stores for holiday shopping

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Community Perspective

FAIRBANKS — Small Business Saturday is the middle child in the most-themed week of the year. Coming after Thanksgiving and Black Friday and before Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday, Shop Small Saturday is the day in which Americans are challenged to devote a portion of their holiday shopping to locally owned businesses.  

Created by American Express in 2010, Small Business Saturday’s mission is to share the big box and e-commerce stores’ spotlight with the myriad locally owned brick-and-mortar businesses across the country. 

According to the Office of Advocacy’s Small Business Profiles, 99 percent of all businesses in Alaska are Alaskan-owned. That equates to 72,000 small businesses across the state. In our neck of the boreal woods, small businesses make up anywhere from 56 to 100 percent of Interior communities’ workforce. 

In an interview during the campaign’s first year, retail expert Cinda Baxter said this of Small Business Saturday: 

“Between Black Friday being gobbled up by big boxes and then Cyber Monday bringing the internet sites in, independent business got elbowed out. So Small Business Saturday is all about staking a claim on one day this weekend to try to reconnect with consumers and start that relationship back up again.”

For the past seven years, the campaign has been doing just that. For Alaska, the “Buy Local” message is vital. As many state-funded agencies are having to eliminate jobs, locally owned businesses continue to create them. The numbers simply don’t lie. In 2014, the beginning of Alaska’s current recession, the Office of Advocacy found small businesses created almost 2,000 Alaska jobs. And as we continue to navigate the recession, local businesses, not multinational corporations, are the bright spot for Alaska’s future.

Plus, a dollar spent at a local business creates a ripple effect. Do your holiday shopping at a Cushman Street business, for example, and that owner is able to hire the local graphic designer for promotional material. Then the graphic designer can hire the Fairbanks accountant to do the business’s taxes. Then the accountant can hire the local janitorial company to clean the office. All because more people chose to shop local.

Granted, local does not always equate to good. Though the economic impact generated by purchasing from Fairbanks stores is immense, it is not reason enough to patron a business. Customers must hold business owners accountable for offering fair prices on quality goods and friendly customer service. Businesses owners must make it convenient and enjoyable for customers to shop at their establishments. Thankfully, many of our Fairbanks stores excel at such practices and will make your holiday shopping hassle-free. 

In Alaska, it may not always be feasible to shop at local businesses. However, it just takes a small shift in your spending to local stores to begin to see a positive impact on our city and borough as a whole. 

Let’s not forget about the middle child. On Small Business Saturday and all through the merry-and-bright season, commit to buying at least five gifts from local businesses or from Fairbanks artisans at one of the many bazaars happening around town. Be sure to follow the Fairbanks First Facebook page for deals offered by area businesses and a list of holiday bazaars on our events page. To hear the stories behind some of your favorite stores, be sure to tune in to 89.1 FM at 10 a.m. Mondays and Wednesdays to hear our small business spotlights. 

Samantha Reynolds is project manager for the Fairbanks Economic Development Corp.

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