Vernette Chance is a retired school teacher with a profound and bluntly stated bias about shopping local and small.
So she took Small Business Saturday seriously.
“I come from a small town (Alva, Okla.) that was killed by chain stores,” she said. “So I deliberately waited, to shop here on Small Business Saturday.”
She bought a Christmas present for her son at Watermark Books.
“Corporations are scary things,” she said. “They can give you great deals and savings, but what they do to communities is hard.”
Small businesses in Delano, downtown and elsewhere spent Saturday offering discounts, trolley rides, food trucks, live music – and a heartfelt sales pitch.
I come from a small town that was killed by chain stores.
Vernette Chance, a Watermark Books customer
Shop at small local businesses, they are saying. Not only for their sake, but for yours.
Shopping online or at the big places, while ignoring small businesses, is a recipe for economic decline, according to the National Retail Federation.
Most small businesses are categorized as retail businesses, according to the federation website.
In Kansas’ 4th Congressional District, which includes Wichita and much of south-central Kansas, here are the federation’s statistics:
▪ 95,586 jobs are supported by retail.
▪ There are 8,761 retail businesses, producing millions for the local economy.
“I wish it was more than one day,” said Julie Craft, who owns Sweet Cheeks Babies, a boutique at 722 W. Douglas. “It’s such an important thing because it’s all about shopping with local stores, which are the lifeblood of any community.”
The Greater Wichita Partnership, which compiled statistics, offered food for thought.
▪ For every $100 spent at local businesses, $68 will stay in the community; with national chains, only $43 stays.
I wish it was more than one day.
Julie Craft, owner, Sweet Cheeks Babies boutique
▪ Shopping local (and small) means more jobs for Wichita.
▪ Local businesses donate to community causes at twice the rate of store chains.
▪ Local businesses are more unique, more quirky and more tuned in to the local population than a chain store or online site.
The best way to keep a business going is to have what Sarah Bagby had on Friday and Saturday: “A store full of customers” at Watermark Books, which she owns.
But online sales, big chain stores and more have taken a toll while they save us money. When customers “go big” for the sales, eventually the result diminishes local businesses, local community, identity, local everything. Local businesses are what give Wichita its flavor, its culture, even its art.
Which is why Bagby and others took part in Small Business Saturday, part of a national effort called the “shop small movement.”
“The shop small movement gets the focus back on spending your money locally, but also, not just about saving that extra penny, it’s about being engaged in your community,” said Janelle King, who owns The Workroom, a home decor and accessories business at 150 N. Cleveland.
Millions of people go shopping at the big places every Black Friday. Thousands do it in Wichita, King said.
“But as a consumer, I don’t feel, when I spend money at Wal-Mart or somewhere, that I am making an impact.
“And it’s Marketing 101 that Black Friday also creates impulse buying, one, where you go in for one thing and spend $50 for something electronic that maybe you don’t even need,” King said.
“Spending $50 with a small business makes it more likely that that $50 is going to help the community, and get you something that you actually need.”
Spending at small businesses is sometimes about their survival, she said. And more
“Every sale can count to make a difference for me to provide, and to be sustainable,” King said.
“And because small businesses are much more in tune than the chains are with our local culture, spending with small businesses here adds more to our culture and to the flavor and the individuality of our community. It helps me provide jobs to my employees, allows me as a mother to provide for my family.
“Each sale counts toward that.”