Have Americans lost hope? The trust-deficit between them and their policymakers is distressingly large, with only 19 percent, according to an October Pew poll, who say that they have faith that the government will do what is right just about always or most of the time.
Thankfully, not all is lost.
Americans still have faith in some institutions, generally for those that truly protect freedoms and preserve livelihoods, like the military and small businesses. In fact, when it comes to job creation and the economy, Americans value the opinions of small-business owners more than any other institution, likely because small-business leaders across the nation have remained committed to hard-work, to job-creation and to building communities, while many in Washington have become preoccupied with less noble endeavors.
But the faith in the men and women of Main Street has remained consistently high for good reason. In the face of economic struggles, many small employers, instead of laying people off, have instead cut their own salaries to keep their full complement of employees. Others have dipped into savings or taken out second mortgages to keep their doors open or to avoid cutting back employee hours.
These are no small feats, but they largely go without acknowledgement or recognition. So when an opportunity to thank these men and women for their daily sacrifices arises, we should take it. We find such an opportunity coming up this weekend on Small Business Saturday.
The campaign to “shop small” on the Saturday after Thanksgiving started in 2010 as little more than an effort to give small businesses — many struggling to get out of the red after a long recession — a much needed shot in the arm. But in the three years since its inception, Small Business Saturday has become a powerful movement to give back to the brick-and-mortar establishments that line our Main Streets and keep our communities vibrant.
The concept is simple: Instead of sitting at home and ordering online or one-stop-shopping at the nearest big-box store, put on your boots and coat and take a walk through the small and independent establishments in your community. Make Main Street ground zero for your holiday shopping. Many local businesses around the county will be offering special deals and discounts throughout the day to encourage shoppers and to commemorate the day, so the incentive to “shop small” is all the greater.
It’s strange to think that doing something so modest — shopping at an independent business — can have such a big impact, but research on last year’s event showed that consumers who were aware of Small Business Saturday spent a total of $5.5 billion with independent merchants that day — higher than earlier estimates of anticipated spending. Indeed, even the President and his family did their part last year, patronizing a local bookstore and giving its holidays sales a boost.
The biggest incentive to “shop small,” is that in doing so, you are not only helping to keep small businesses operating, you are making your community stronger. It’s likely when you purchase a product or service at a local store or restaurant, you are helping to pay the salary of a neighbor, a friend or a family member. You are helping to keep the people in your town or city employed so that they can support their families. Most importantly, you are demonstrating the value that you place on the small-business people who, by providing you and your community with unparalleled products and services, work hard to keep your trust each and every day.
During times like these, we could all benefit from a boost in our faith — faith in the future, faith in our country, faith in our economy. Show your faith in America by starting your holiday season in a small business and “shop small” on Small Business Saturday.
• Farrell Quinlan is Arizona state director for the National Federation of Independent Business.