Shopping Small is Essential Business

By Sarah Peltier
Guest Writer

Sarah Peltier working the front counter at Others in downtown Fargo. // Photo by Kara Lee

This holiday season, small businesses are facing a harsh reality: can we afford to do this for one more year?

The answer to that question will be answered after the holidays and the solution is for consumers to engage in local, online shopping. Many small businesses were forced (for better or worse) to pivot to ecommerce in 2020, and they are relying on holiday online sales to make it through the long winter ahead.

Sure, shopping online is not the same as swinging into your favorite shop on a whim and having a chat with the owner who remembers your name. The experience and the staff are the best part about shopping small! The same could be said from the staff perspective: seeing their customers faces, learning little tidbits about them and helping someone find products that spark joy is their favorite part.

From personal experience, I can tell you the move to ecommerce was hard on small business staff. Overnight, going from 10% of sales coming from ecommerce to 100%, experiencing shipping delays, offering local delivery to help with shipping costs, all without being to connect with the customer face-to-face… However, as I packed every order and wrote a little note to each customer, my heart was full. It meant so much to see the community rise up and support our shop, the crisis truly bringing us closer together. While delivering one order, I found a small bouquet of flowers waiting for me on the front step with a note reading, “For our favorite gals at our favorite shop, thank you!” You could not have wiped the smile off my face even with the strongest of sanitizing wipes.

Shopping small is about community investment. Of every $100 spent at small businesses, $68 remains in the community. Additionally, nearly 40% of all small businesses are women-owned! These statistics hold true even for ecommerce, which means an online purchase from a local small business is likely supporting women and bringing prosperity to your community.

The impact does not end there: small businesses support other small businesses. From the contracted window washing company to the postal store down the block, from the accountant to the business advisor and beyond, keeping small businesses IN business is essential to your local economy.

National chains have mastered online shopping and have teams of staff to manage the website, design the emails, pull inventory, package and ship…with a small business, all these roles are usually held by one, maybe two people.

These small business owners are not typically trained website developers. They chose to start a small business to connect, to provide the community a service, to follow their heart and their dream. While they may not know how to code a website, they do know a thing or two about customer service. Your purchase will likely arrive beautifully packaged, perhaps with a handwritten note, your items carefully wrapped and positioned to maximize your joy upon opening.

As we move more towards ecommerce and online shopping, make it a personal challenge to shop small, even online. Need a specific product? Reach out on social media for recommendations; you’ll make connections with friends and strangers alike, feel proud of your purchase and receive a product of arguably higher quality and greater value. When you get your purchase home or unbox your online order, take pictures and share on social media! Tag the business, tell everyone about your experience, and leave them a Google review. Small businesses grow through grassroots, and you could be the reason they grow.

By choosing to make a purchase from a small business this holiday season, you might have just paid their internet bill. When you buy the last holiday scented candle on the shelf, there will most likely be a celebratory fist pump after you walk out the store. When you decide to buy enough chocolate bars for your whole family, an audible sigh of relief may be heard. Our community relies on small businesses, and your conscious decision to support small businesses during the 2020 holiday season, be it in-person or online, could be the reason those businesses survive another year.

About Sarah Peltier

Having worked in the Small Business and non-profit sectors for eight years, Sarah Peltier is passionate about the development of community support essential to business success. Through marketing, event planning and process development, Sarah has worked with small businesses to build brand awareness and community involvement. Her favorite part of working in these sectors is the relationships which grow and thrive therein.