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Before you leave the house to go shopping this weekend, or spend hours online buying gifts for family and friends, could I ask a small favor from you please? If you never, ever read another thing I write, please read this. OK?

Hopefully the following facts and figures will mean as much to you as they did to me:

  • According to the U.S. Census Bureau American small businesses make up 99.7% of all firms with employees, 64% of net new private-sector jobs, 49.2% of private-sector employment, and 42.9% of private-sector payroll.
  • Small retailers often gather 25 to 50 percent of all their sales for the year in just the last two months of the year. Sometimes small retailers generate more revenue from Thanksgiving to the end of the year than they do the rest of the year combined.
  • Only 6 cents of every dollar spent at a big box retailer stays in the community. For a chain store 20 cents of every dollar stays in the community. But every dollar spent with a sole proprietorship keeps 60 cents circulating in the community. Always wondering why you don’t earn more in a small community? This is one reason why.
  • For every $100 spent at a locally-owned business, $45 goes back into the community and local tax base. For every $100 spent at a chain store, only $13 comes back.
  • When you shop at locally-owned businesses money stays in the community 3 times longer. Local businesses and artists tend to buy from local suppliers and hire service providers such as printers, accountants, lawyers. This means more jobs in the community.
  • A dollar spent at a locally owned store is usually spent 6 to 15 times before it leaves the community. From $1 you can create $5 to $14 in value within that community. And when you spend $1 at a national chain store > 80% of the money leaves town immediately.
  • Local businesses tend to give much more to community causes and local media. Many of the non-profit organizations that serve our small rural communities are supported largely by local businesses. Also, our local radio stations, newspapers, and television stations can only be kept alive with advertisements from small local businesses.
  • Local business owners and employees often have more knowledge and expertise than those you find in big box retailers. Local businesses often specialize in a certain area and have the expertise in that area. They have usually be doing it longer than the kid behind the counter at the chain store, too. This creates better customer service. Music-store owners know a great deal about music, trade businesses usually have expertise specific to the area when it comes to building or repairing structures, florists know flowers, and small hardware-store owners know tools. Sometimes it is better to pay a little more once for a quality product or service than twice for an inferior one.

Let’s be honest, much of what we buy at Christmas is crap. Ask yourself what you received last year for Christmas. Do you even remember? How much do you use the item(s) you were given? Unless it was clothes that fit and that you liked, more often than not the gift you received last Christmas is gone or already hopelessly obsolete. This Christmas why not buy your friends and family something that lasts much longer and means much more? Whether it is a locally made handcrafted item or an experience that provides a memory that may last a lifetime, your local small businesses and retailers often are the only ones selling goods that have the power to make this Christmas memorable. Video games, electronics, nifty gadgets, and plastic crap made overseas seldom has the power to create memories. But ask your local businesses and artists for ideas and I bet they will help you find a gift that stands out this Christmas season.

And when you do, you’re also helping your local economy to thrive. Which means that dollar you spend might end up back in your own pocket.

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