Think and shop small this Saturday
— Created November 23, 2022 by Kathy Reed
By Kathy Reed
As everyone hopefully enjoys a respite from busy, hectic lives this Thanksgiving Day, many may begin thinking about the season to come – the shopping season!
Tomorrow’s Black Friday ushers ushers in a weekend race kicking off holiday shopping that runs through Cyber Monday. And right in the middle is the sweet spot – Small Business Saturday. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Bankrate.com, Small Business Saturday is an even bigger shopping day than Black Friday – 59 percent of shoppers plan to shop small businesses Saturday as opposed to 53 percent who said they plan to shop Friday. According to American Express, which founded Small Business Saturday over a decade ago, Americans spent more than $20 billion on Small Business Saturday last year.
For a place like Whidbey Island, small businesses drive the local economy, making events like Small Business Saturday a big deal, and not just when it comes to money.
“Small Business Saturday is a good reminder to residents and visitors that supporting a small business means building a stronger community for our kids being raised here,” said Magi Aguilar, executive director of the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce. “Involving the younger community in small business shopping sets a good example that thinking local first supports our friends and neighbors.
“There is a uniqueness about shopping small business especially on Whidbey Island,” she continued. “Our small businesses represent the diversity of our community and entrepreneurs.”
“The majority of businesses on south Whidbey are small, entrepreneurial businesses,” said Inge Morascini, executive director of the Langley Chamber of Commerce. “These businesses fall into many categories, but share common traits such as, being innovative and unique within their individual sector. Supporting these businesses means that we all take part in the expansion of our culture and are able to harvest the fruits of their energy and vibe. Another outcrop of having such a vibrant small business culture is that people are willing to share knowledge and support one another and the community at large.”
It is that diversity that helps set Whidbey Island apart from other places to shop.
“Small businesses, local artisans and producers are part of the infrastructure that differentiates Whidbey Island from any other place in the world,” said Sherrye Wyatt, PR and marketing manager for Whidbey and Camano Islands Tourism, who added that we should look at the island economy in a more holistic way.
“Just as we need local residents to frequent local businesses, we need our local restaurants and shops to support local producers by showcasing Whidbey Island products,” she said. “There is a certain caché to something only made on Whidbey Island that should be fully embraced by local retailers and residents alike.”
One of the biggest challenges small businesses face is competition from larger retailers and the convenience of online shopping. Business owners must come up with ways to keep local shoppers coming back.
“As long as they maintain a unique perspective to their products and brand, competition from the Amazons of the world is mitigated,” said Morascini. “Visitors coming to Whidbey are seeking out local products as well and readily embrace locally made goods, either coming directly from the maker, or carried in one of our local retail stores. Generally, folks are also looking to reduce their carbon footprint, and products made locally use far less carbon energy than products having to be transported from another country or another state.”
Even more importantly, shoppers enjoy the connection small businesses can provide.
“Our local small businesses are providing an experience to residents and tourists by creating products that tell a story about Whidbey Island,” Aguilar said. “When people buy products from our small businesses, they are not only supporting someone’s dream, but they are purchasing a small piece of our island. You can’t get that from big box stores or online.”
“Relationships are important to customers,” agreed Morascini. “The old expression from a sitcom, ‘…where everyone knows your name,’ truly carries weight when making shopping decisions. The knowledge that their dollars are circulating back into their community is also a decision factor for many people.”
“The shopping experience is far richer when you are meeting the maker themselves and choosing something unique that reflects our sense of place,” Wyatt said. “Shopping local means every dollar you spend stays in our community. You are helping your neighbor and your community when you shop local.”
Wyatt said it’s also important in this shopping era to add an extra layer of convenience for shoppers.
“Small businesses should all sell gift cards and make it easy to purchase them,” she suggested. “Businesses need to have an online presence in order for visitors to support them by ordering products or purchasing gift cards from them after they return home. Even for local residents, it is sometimes easier to shop on the website of a local business and have your gifts or gift cards shipped directly from the store to loved ones.”
“Let’s not forget giving others the experience of our local culture through gifts of tickets or passes to local performances and gift cards to our favorite restaurants,” Morascini added. “Or really pamper someone and book a local lodging and invite someone to enjoy our island with you, while giving them their own space.”
During the pandemic, Whidbey and Camano Islands Tourism provided print and online marketing support to Island County small businesses, and that online resource is still available. Current listings can be found at whidbeycamanoislands.com/activities/category/shopping. Updates and corrections can be sent to email@example.com.
“The Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce can provide a list of small businesses to residents and visitors Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p m.,” Aguilar said. “We are happy to help make shopping experiences memorable in our small town.”
“Shopping locally gives us all an opportunity to breathe in the season in an unhurried, uncrowded, small-town atmosphere and you’ll know that you are making a difference in your community by supporting local makers and businesses,” Morascini said.