Small Business Saturday

Today is “Small Business Saturday,” which is when all moral people do their shopping — as opposed to the greedy grasping capitalists who spent all their money at large chains on Black Friday.

I kid.

Here’s a poster:

Let’s talk a little about this poster. First of all, notice the small “American Express” logo in the bottom right corner. “Small Business Saturday,” part of the “Shop Small” campaign, is run by American Express and sponsored by Foursquare, Twitter, and the USPS. None of these are small, local businesses, and — of course — credit card fees collected by American Express do not stay in the community.

The figure cited is from the most recent American Booksellers Association / Civic Economics Impact Study. I can’t find this study published online, but last year’s was a survey of 106 retailers and 28 restaurants. So it had a small sample size and the data was self-reported, two things that are red flags in my book. Unless this year’s survey was much larger, I don’t think you can really draw any general conclusions from it.

Regardless of the quality of the survey, there’s nothing to tell us how good “over fifty percent” is. Do small businesses over-perform big box stores by a little or a lot? You might be inclined to think it’s “a lot,” but many small businesses buy a lot of their goods from outside community borders, rent from landlords who might not even live in the same state, and send credit card fees out to the megabanks.

Money from large retailers stay in the community, too. They have to employ a lot of people who live in the region, pay local utilities, and pay for local advertising, goods, and services as well. I don’t know how much of Target’s, Best Buy’s, or McDonald’s money stays in the community, but I bet it’s quite a lot.

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