Mark Grant mug
Listen to this article

Black Friday might be the longest day of the year now. Used to be, it was just the Friday after Thanksgiving. Now, going by the Black Friday ads, it seems to start the morning after Halloween and runs until who knows when.

Black Friday, of course, is the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, but there’s another day that puts me in the holiday spirit. It’s the day after Black Friday, Small Business Saturday.

Small Business Saturday is when shoppers are encouraged to shop on Main Street instead of the malls. It’s a chance for everyone to support the independent retailers and restaurants that do so much for our communities throughout the year.

It began 10 years ago as a sales promotion to help small businesses trying to recover from the Great Recession. Since then, it has become one of the busiest shopping days of the year. According to American Express and NFIB, the nation’s leading small business advocacy organization, Americans spent a record $17.8 billion last year on Small Business Saturday. That isn’t as much as shoppers spent on Black Friday, but it’s over twice as much as they spent on Cyber Monday

Overall, an estimated 104 million Americans spent at small, independent shops and restaurants on last year’s Small Business Saturday. And according to American Express and NFIB, 41 percent of people who shopped at brick-and-mortar businesses last year on Small Business Saturday shopped small online, too.

That’s good, because small business is the engine that drives Illinois’ economy. Overall, small businesses account for 99.6 percent of Illinois businesses, and they employ 45.1 percent of its labor force, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

When we support small businesses, we’re supporting our friends and neighbors. We’re supporting the businesses that support our schools and charities and bring our communities closer together.

Shopping small also makes our communities strong. When we shop small, 67 cents of every dollar remains in the community, according to a study by American Express.

What’s more, every dollar spent at a small business creates another 50 cents in local business activity because of employee spending and purchases to keep the business up and running.

Small businesses aren’t like the national chains. Small businesses sell merchandise and serve dishes you’d have a tough time finding anyplace else. And when you shop small, you stand a good chance of dealing directly with the owner of the company, someone who is committed not only to making you a satisfied customer but also a regular who’ll come back again and again. In fact, 96 percent of Small Business Saturday shoppers surveyed last year intended to shop small throughout the year.

Small businesses keep our economy healthy and strong. They’re the glue that holds our communities together. That’s why I’m encouraging everyone to shop small on Saturday, Nov. 30. When we help small businesses, we help everyone.

Mark Grant is the Illinois state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, the nation’s leading small business advocacy organization. He lives in Springfield.