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Our view: This weekend, don't forget the little guys

Herald editorial board

To anyone brave enough to fight this weekend's shopping crowds, we offer the following advice: Don’t forget the little guys.

There were 28 advertising inserts in the Herald on Thanksgiving morning and dozens of other print advertisers throughout the newspaper. Those 28 places of business are important to Grand Forks and we appreciate their interest in using the Herald to get the word out.

That was Thursday. Yesterday – dubbed Black Friday in the retail world – shoppers were out en force seeking the deals and bargains that have made this day famous.

And today comes Small Business Saturday, which doesn’t quite get the attention of those Thanksgiving night specials or the crowds of Black Friday but which means a lot to the local economy nonetheless.

Small Business Saturday debuted in 2010. Back then, it was sponsored by – and promoted by – American Express. In the years since, it has become a nationwide movement to convince shoppers of the merits of spending their dollars with local merchants.

Why is it important?

Just look down any small-town Main Street, where vacant buildings stand in place of once thriving shops. Even downtown Grand Forks has seen its share of closings in recent years. And the growing national monopoly that is Amazon continues to churn forward, gobbling up an ever greater share of retail dollars.

It’s not a healthy trend for communities, who rely on local businesses to hire workers, pay salaries and taxes, and contribute to product uniqueness and diversity in the region.

A study by a research firm called Civic Economics showed that 48 percent of each purchase at a local store stays local, while only 14 percent of a purchase at a chain store stays in the community. That’s important.

We don’t suggest shoppers avoid the local chain retailers, since they also provide impact to the community. When they leave, it hurts.

A good example happened in nearby Thief River Falls, Minn., which saw its J.C. Penney and Kmart stores both fail in 2017. Those closures will adversely impact the region.

There must be a balance, and that’s where Small Business Saturday comes in. Between the rush of Thanksgiving, those crazy Black Friday specials and the unfortunate lure of Cyber Monday comes a brief time when the little guys take center stage.

In recent days, the Herald has published numerous advertisements for local businesses hoping to gain a piece of the retail pie on Small Business Saturday. We suggest readers stop in at these places and others in town.

There, they will find people who genuinely could use the business, and they’ll certainly be reinvesting it back into the community.