While online retailers have made the convenience of shopping from one’s couch all too easy, area business leaders are urging residents to take to the streets as the holiday shopping season kicks off.
The holiday shopping season kicks off with some larger retailers opening Thursday evening, or on Black Friday,,but for local retailers Small Business Saturday is their big push to fetch local shoppers.
The unofficial holiday was created by American Express and had its start in 2010, always to fall on the Saturday immediately following Thanksgiving. Last year, 112 million people went out to “shop small” on Small Business Saturday, a 13 percent increase from 2015.
As the promotion has grown, and with many continuing to patronize local shops throughout the holiday shopping season, local leaders are urging the public to leave the comfort of the couch and patronize their neighbors’ shops. Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tony Howard said shopping small creates an opportunity to gift unique, authentic gifts to loved ones. On a personal note, he said his relatives in New York enjoy the bottles of Virginia wine he brings north for holiday gifts.
“There’s a number of different ways in which folks can get Loudoun-specific and Loudoun-authentic gifts and get them all here locally,” he said. Those who are receiving the gift, “see something authentic to the community you come from that has a lot more meaning that anything you can buy from online anywhere in the world.”
Howard noted that it’s these small businesses that contribute to the quality of life Loudoun residents enjoy, whether it be taxes that fund schools or public safety, or in the business’ direct contributions to area nonprofits, community associations and sports teams.
“When you support thoseyou really are supporting your community, and you’re also supporting that quality of life that is so essential and binds us together,” he said. “Sometimes it is about more than dollars and cents.”
Russell Seymour, the newly installed director of Leesburg’s Economic Development Department, said he has enjoyed visiting with—and patronizing—the town’s shops as he acclimates to his new home.
“From personal experience, I would much rather go out, meet the business owner,” he said. When you shop small, “you’re buying much more than a product or service, you’re paying back, working with the local community. That’s critical for us. One of my goals here is to continue to highlight and look for new opportunities to really push highlighting our local businesses that are here in Leesburg.”
Local shops give customers the opportunity to develop a more familiar relationship with the shops from which they buy products and services. It’s those relationships that can give these small businesses an advantage, Seymour said.
“Coming in from the outside I really and truly don’t feel like a number when I go to these local businesses and to me that speaks volumes,” he said. “You can’t put a price on that they actually seem to care about the customers they serve.”