It’s Black Friday. Before the Thanksgiving leftovers have cooled, many Americans will already be braving massive crowds and long lines for a chance to snag that must-have item or door-busting deal. But even as the ostensible convenience and savings of big box stores and online retail giants lure us in, locally owned small businesses continue to claim more space on consumers’ holiday shopping lists.

According to the 2018 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey conducted by the National Federation of Independent Businesses and American Express, 91 percent of consumers recognize the importance of shopping local with 83 percent of consumers saying they, “plan to do at least some portion of their holiday shopping at a small, independently owned retailer or restaurant — either in person or online.”

Since 2010, the Small Business Saturday campaign has worked to highlight the positive impacts of shopping locally. An American Express small business impact study reveals that, for every dollar you spend at a small business this holiday season, 67 cents stays in the community. Two-thirds of that amount helps small businesses cover owner and employee wages and benefits while the remainder gets reinvested locally. Furthermore, every dollar spent in a local business creates, on average, an additional 50 cents local business activity by owners and employees.

All this is a bit like preaching to the choir in here Vermont, where thinking local is old hat, thanks, in part, to homegrown efforts like Local First Vermont, which has been reinforcing that ethic for nearly a decade. At our farmers markets and in our historic downtowns, we Vermonters proudly support independent local businesses. And while we know well that healthy local businesses create healthy communities, it never hurts to be reminded.

Around the state, far away from the box stores and shopping malls on the outskirts of town, communities are gearing up for the holiday shopping season this weekend with events designed to attract shoppers downtown.

In Rutland, the Downtown Rutland Partnership will observe Small Business Saturday with its annual Holiday Stroll, which will feature deals, attractions and family activities at dozens of local shops and restaurants all day long.

Montpelier Alive’s Flannel Friday event offers a small-town alternative to Black Friday mayhem with deals and prizes throughout the Capitol City. Cider Monday, meanwhile, entices shoppers to skip Cyber Monday with the promise of free cider and doughnuts at local shops.

Elsewhere, cities like Barre, Burlington and many others are raising the Small Business Saturday flag to remind consumers of all local businesses have to offer.

While it’s unrealistic to expect consumers to quit box stores and online shopping cold turkey, efforts to increase awareness about the positive impacts of shopping local are clearly working. Those who continue to shop under the impression local businesses don’t offer what you’re looking for, should use this weekend to give them a fresh look. Maybe, they won’t have everything on your wish list, but that’s OK. By supporting a local small business, you might find something even more special, something unexpected or something you didn’t even know you were looking for. To be sure, one item there will be no shortage of around the state this weekend is community.

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