Friday marks a major day: it is the 14th annual observation of Thank God I Don’t Work in Retail Anymore Day, marked by me in a quiet, tasteful ceremony that involves feeling sorry for the poor SOBs who have yet to escape Retail Hell. I hold this ceremony from the cozy confines of my bed.
This year I’m expecting Black Friday to be a bit of an ugly affair since many national retail companies are planning to open earlier than ever before — midnight or even Thanksgiving evening — which means workers get to sacrifice even more of their holiday catering to the whims of corporate heads who get to sleep in. Across the country Walmart and Target employees in particular are staging strikes and walkouts to protest these ridiculous early openings.
If you agree that Black Friday (which is slowing morphing into Black Thursday) is getting out of control — well, don’t forget to first look in the mirror, because you may have played a role in this; the shopping public is as much responsible for these increasingly early openings by doing exactly what the retail giants want you to do: turn out by the thousands at the crack of dawn or earlier to spend spend spend.
“But the bargains,” you might say, “the bargains!”
Which is important why, exactly? Are you really saving money? Or is this a case of fuzzy consumer math wherein you drop $500 on a lot of junk — more than you planned on spending on Christmas gifts — but instead focus like a laser on the $50 you didn’t spend because everything was on sale and think you’ve somehow come out ahead? And do you really think that giving someone a less expensive, elaborate gift somehow diminishes the emotions behind the act of gift-giving?
Besides which, A) a lot of the best bargains are going to be scooped up before you even get in the door, and you know it, and B) there are going to be a LOT more sales in the coming four weeks that are just as good, so why not spare yourself the headache of standing outside a store in the freezing cold for several hours?
Now, a few friends have made the argument to me that with the economy still on shaky legs, the public kind of needs to go crazy on spending. Christmas shopping equals economic stimulus, they say, and a lot of retailers are adding seasonal jobs to handle the mad rush (700,000 temp retail jobs according to Forbes).
Okay, valid point, but that argument only goes so far. First of all, yes, any work is better than no work for those who need it, but there is only so much salvation to be found in a part-time minimum wage gig with no benefits that will maybe last until January.
Also, remember that these are national retailers we’re talking about, and a lot of that revenue is going to funnel up to the upper echelons of corporate leadership before it turns into job creation at the rank-and-file level.
You want to have a real impact on the economy? Shop locally.
Yes, I’m one of those.
As I’ve stated here before, small businesses, not large corporations, are the true backbone of the American economy. The US Small Business Administration found that of the approximately 27 million businesses operating in the U.S., 78 percent of them have fewer than 10 employees, and 61 percent have fewer than five — and, collectively, community-based small businesses have generated 64 percent of all new jobs created within the past 15 years.
Add to that the fact that, according to various studies, much more money remains in the local economy if it is spent at a local business than if it goes to a national chain. One sponsored by Local First, “Local Works! Examining the Impact of Local Business on the West Michigan Economy” (2008), stated that $68 out of every $100 spent at a local business remains in the community versus $43 out of every $100 spent at a business that is not locally owned.
Added bonus of shopping at a small business: the owners are going to sleep in on Friday, so you can too.
American Express a few years ago launched the Small Business Saturday initiative to spotlight the value and importance of shopping locally, and in that spirit I’m going to plug a few small businesses I think readers should check out:
Coffee Obsession (Falmouth): While I am a dedicated Starbucks junkie, Coffee O deserves your love. Grab a gift card or a pound of ground coffee or one of the many funky coffee makers they have on sale.
Cupcake Charlie’s (Mashpee and Plymouth): My tongue is sad that I don’t get to Cupcake Charlie’s as often as I do, but my waistline is grateful it’s a rare treat — but it is absolutely a treat. I dig the Peanut Butter Pleasure, but if you ever have a chance to snag the Ginger Snap cupcake, DO IT. Get a gift card or buy some cupcakes for your holiday party.
Geeky and Cheeky: My friend Jess runs this business, which makes fun handmade dolls and puppets for all ages, including the nerdy adults in your life. She does custom work as well!
Richard Maclone Photography (Falmouth): You might know him as the Enterprise’s sports editor, but my buddy Rich is also a crack portrait and wedding photographer (he did a fantastic job at my wedding).
And now, the self-serving portion of the post…
Enterprise Newspapers (Barnstable, Bourne, Falmouth, Mashpee, Sandwich): Buy a gift subscription for a family member or a friend. Keep them well-informed of what’s going on in their town and keep me in coffee and cupcakes.
Storied Threads: My wife’s endeavor, which caters heavily to the geek crowd in the form of embroidered patches, bags, scarves, and period clothing and accessories.
Do you have a favorite locally owned small business you want to highlight? Go ahead and post a link!
The views and opinions in the Enterprise blogs are those of the author and are not neccessarily shared by Falmouth Publishing.