Every year I write Forget Black Friday, think of Small Business Saturday and support your Main Street. I have always been appalled by Black Friday, where people get trampled in search of bargains in big boxes, but am no fan of Buy Nothing Day either, because my kids monger cheese, pull espressos or pour beer in local businesses. So call me selfish, but I have a vested interest in supporting small businesses. But everybody has lots of reasons to support Small Business Saturday.
It helps preserve old buildingsEarlier, I pitched Small Business Saturday because I was an historic preservation activist and small businesses often occupy old buildings, and revitalize main streets; As Stephanie Meeks of the National Trust for Historic Preservation noted:
When we invest in small businesses, we are investing in Main Streets - the places that give our towns and cities a unique sense of place.
It can support local jobsI liked the idea of preserving local jobs and suppliers in the face of the march of Amazon and big boxes; as Michael Shuman wrote:
It means nurturing locally owned businesses which use local resources sustainably, employ local workers at decent wages and serve primarily local consumers. It means becoming more self-sufficient and less dependent on imports.
It reduces your carbon footprintAnd of course, it was good for promoting walkable urbanism. If we are going to get people out of cars, there has be and alternative. Alex Steffen wrote:
There is a direct relationship between the kinds of places we live, the transportation choices we have, and how much we drive. The best car-related innovation we have is not to improve the car, but eliminate the need to drive it everywhere we go.
It can save your life
This year, I was going to bang on about how supporting small business could actually save and extend your life, that you should be walking to your neighbourhood stores. Writing at MNN.com, I quoted a doctor:
Our findings demonstrate that physical activity (both recreational and non-recreational) is associated with a lower risk for mortality and major CVD events, which was independent of the type of physical activity and other risk factors. ... Even meeting the physical activity guidelines such as walking for as little as 30 minutes on most days of the week had a substantial benefit.
But this year, it is political; Supporting small businesses can save your bike lanes and promote transit.
In one London district, a pet physiotherapist complains to the Evening Standard:
We have lots of disabled dogs who come for therapy and the further away their owners park the more difficult it is. In simple terms I won’t be able to get customers here and that will cripple us. It would have a massive effect.
In fact, under the new plans, there are more parking spaces in front of his shop than there were before. But this is never about logic, it's about the war on the car. Will Norman, London's Walking and Cycling commissioner, responded today:
Time and time again studies have shown that enabling people to walk and cycle more easily to local shops is good for business. Far from crippling trade, the proposals will be a boon to the local economy, as well as improving the health and happiness of people living in the local area.
So this year, everyone who cares about active transportation, about cycling and walking, get out there and cycle and walk to your Main Street, preferably one with a bike lane, and show support for those businesses, (unless it is a Chiswick pet physiotherapist). Because all these small businesses have enough trouble between rising real estate taxes and Amazon, and they need our support. And while you are out there, have a coffee or a beer or some cheese; you will be supporting somebody's kids, maybe even mine.
Small Business Saturday is sponsored by American Express, which always surprised me because many small shops don't accept it. So I was very surprised to go out for lunch at a small neighbourhood restaurant in Toronto to find that their campaign to support small businesses actually extended north of the border.
So forget about Black Friday; do your shopping local, on your neighbourhood main or high street, and perhaps even seek out one that is the site of the latest battle in the war on the car. They need your support for all kinds of reasons. Some people find the American Express sponsorship a bit too corporate; If so, remember my favorite campaign: