#SmallBusinessSaturday 11/30/2013

This Holiday Season, Shop Small Businesses (At Least For Batteries)

By Paul Konikowski, CTS-D

You hear your alarm clock go off at 3:30 a.m. but it doesn’t matter because you were already awake.  Many of the big superstores have been open since Thanksgiving morning, but it’s about keeping the family tradition, right?  It’s also about strategy.  Sure, the early bird gets the worm..but then again… the early worm gets eaten… and who needs coffee when you have 20% off coupons and door-buster deals!

Or maybe you are the type of person who sleeps in on the day after Thanksgiving, and waits for online deals on the following “Cyber Monday”? Wait a second; aren’t you supposed to be at work on Monday?

This year, I suggest you try a new approach to your holiday shopping:  Instead of going from big box store to big box store hunting for the best price on new electronics or other gifts, consider patronizing the small business on the corner.

Local, independent hardware stores, electronics boutiques, gas stations, pharmacies, grocery stores and otherwise mom-and-pop stores are great sources for gifts.  I know one guy who gets all his family gifts from a local truck stop. Admit it: when you walk through a truck stop, you always see pretty interesting items at reasonable prices!

Many of these small businesses have an electronics “department” that may only be one display case or mixed in the same aisle as power tools and electric toothbrushes. They may not have the same selection of video games and Blu-ray that the big box stores would offer. There are no blue light specials, rollbacks, door-buster deals, or price-slashing December To Remember events.  No, you will find most items are simply “for sale” or “on sale” at a fair, reasonable price.  The shopping carts will be smaller, the cashier lines will be shorter, and the walk to your car will feel incredible, as you know in your heart, you are doing the right thing.

I am not saying everyone should completely boycott big box stores this holiday (although I must admit I like the idea). These nationwide chains have their place when purchasing the hottest new smartphones, tablets, televisions and video games. When making those gift purchases, its important to have a variety of the latest and greatest hardware models and software titles to choose from.  It’s also beneficial to use the internet to research the products and prices in advance, no matter where you end up making the purchase.

But once you have done your research and know what you want, you should pause before buying everything at the big box store.  Consider getting a case for the tablet computer at the local computer repair shop.  While you are there, ask them about gift certificates you can give your friends and family, that they can use when their computer inevitably needs some more memory, or just some TLC.  Get the batteries and car adapters at the independently owned gas station.  Don’t get so hung on prices, because if you do, the big box stores will always have the advantage.

This Saturday, make a commitment to ONLY shop at small businesses. Tell your families to do the same.  This includes grocery shopping!  Give your warehouse store membership card a day off, leave your car in the driveway, and ride your bike to the local candy store with a big backpack and no shopping list, and see what you can find.  Take your older kids to the local hardware store and have them pick out their own stocking stuffers. Find a source for handmade holiday cards, buy some gift certificates to local restaurants, and/or attend a local craft faire.  You won’t find any “wearable tech” or oversized shopping carts.  But you will find cozy sweaters and lots of gifts made of recycled products.  Most of the time at these craft fairs, the vendors are selling their own wares, so you can easily ask them questions, or place custom orders.

I guarantee you will feel warm and fuzzy while you support local businesses this #smallbusinesssaturday.  If you are limited by weather this holiday weekend, make a list of the local stores you want to patronize.  If you write out your list of stores using a pen or pencil, you are much more likely to do it.  You remember pens and pencils, right?