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The Perks of Holiday Shopping on Small Business Saturday

At a time when it can feel like there’s a Walmart, Dollar General, Walgreens or other national chain around every corner, what does it mean to shop small?

It means checking out the new boutique store that carries hand-crafted wooden toys. Or buying a birthday cake from the corner bakery, helmed by a chef who lives on the second floor. It’s the choice to patronize the community’s independent storefronts, as well as local artisans who sell online through sites like Etsy . (Find them via a location search.)

The phrase “shop small” has become something of a rallying cry, synonymous with the weekend after Thanksgiving ever since the inaugural Small Business Saturday took place in 2010. This year’s holiday is set for Saturday, Nov. 30.

And while shoppers may be drawn in by the promise of huge deals available from mass-market retailers on the day before—Black Friday—here are a few reasons why it could be good to keep some of that holiday shopping budget for the little guys.

A True Treasure Hunt

One of the best reasons to shop local is the chance of finding something that’s truly one-of-a-kind. While a wide variety of merchandise is always available at the larger, chain stores, those same items are also likely to appear on other big store shelves, too. And that’s because the mass-market business model operates on buying in bulk—large quantities of one item help keep its cost low.

Small businesses, on the other hand, may purchase their merchandise in small batches from wholesalers, liquidators, or even buy handcrafted products from local artists. And running a business without the advantages of bulk inventory buying could be one reason that small shops are often seen as more expensive.

The tradeoff, however, comes in the chance for shoppers to find that one-of-a-kind, unique item that they’d never see at a large store or online retailer. In fact, some cities participate in a Small Business Saturday scavenger hunt , in which shoppers are encouraged to find specific treasures at local businesses.

A Hands-on Experience

The tactile experience of shopping in a brick-and-mortar store is one area where local businesses have it all over online-only retailers. An in-person trip to a local clothing store, for example, comes with fitting rooms and accessory experts. A local honey store may have the opportunity to taste its varieties before purchase.

In fact, recent research from Mood Media, a major international in-store media solutions company, found that 56% of shoppers said the ability to touch and try different products or services was the biggest factor driving them in-store.

Sampling and handling the merchandise are possibilities at most large retailers as well—as anyone who’s ever walked through a store’s fragrance department can attest—but with a small, local business, that experience may also come with a story. About the artist, the way the item was created, or the local merchants who helped bring it to life.

Retail Therapy is Real

Engaging the senses during a shopping trip is perhaps one reason 40% of shoppers admitted to shopping as a way to “calm down.” According to Mood Media’s study , good music topped the list of in-store mood elevators—85% of shoppers said it had a positive impact on their experience.

On the same note, however, more than half of shoppers said that the wrong music, or tunes that are too loud, would turn them off to a brand.

Other factors that contribute to an ethereal in-store experience include scent and digital content—more than half of shoppers said the right amount of either helped enhance their shopping trip.

In-store Shopping Equals Instant Gratification

As members of an on-demand society, shopping locally gives us something the online retailers can’t—the experience of selecting, buying and physically taking an item home on the same day.

If it’s clothing or shoes, there’s no need to guess at a size. If it’s a gift, there’s no wondering whether it will arrive on time. And, if it’s something a shopper has been eyeing for a while, the indulgence isn’t tempered by a delivery waiting game.

The craving for “right now” can also extend to exchanges and returns. Shopping locally means no return labels, hunting for a box, or waiting on a replacement. It’s as easy as heading back to the store for a refund or exchange.

No Fees

Incentive programs from online retailers, such as Amazon Prime, come with the promise of free two-day (and sometimes faster) shipping and other guarantees , but they also come with a hefty membership fee—$119 a year, in Amazon’s case.

A membership to a wholesaler allows shoppers to save money on items by buying in bulk, but only after a fee of $45 for Sam’s Club and $60 for Costco.

In order for memberships like this to hold value, a shopper would aim to save more on shipping and other costs than they paid for the membership to begin with.

On the other side of the equation, local retailers who sell items directly from their storefronts may also be saving money on fees. Etsy, for example, takes a 5% commission on each item sold, eBay takes up to 12% , and Walmart can take up to 20%.

You Can Still Shop Online

This is the 21st century, and shopping locally doesn’t necessarily mean physically going to the store. The hybrid online/IRL experiences that many of the large retailers offer are also benefiting small businesses.

Especially for operations that are challenged in square footage, technologies like endless aisle allow them to offer a lot more inventory than what they can fit on the showroom floor.

So if a shopper finds that perfect outfit—just not in the right size or color—there’s no need to take to the web or head to a different store. They can order it online inside the store for either delivery or pickup.

Conversely, other small businesses have joined the “buy online, pick up in store” trend that was, arguably, made significantly easier with the addition of Buy Now buttons on social media channels like Facebook .

The Whole Community Benefits

Aside from the direct economic stimulus of spending money locally, a burgeoning small business scene can help bolster the local neighborhood. And it’s about more than bringing in foot traffic.

Recent research found that local businesses overall give back 250% more than larger companies to local nonprofits and community causes. That breaks down to 75% of small-business owners giving around 6% of their profits, on average, back to the community.

When a local business gives back, it gives 85% of consumers a more positive image of that business. That, in turn, may be more likely to bring more shoppers to the business, creating a cycle of giving that can benefit everyone involved.

As a successful small business grows, it may buy its goods from other local businesses and even hire new employees, who will likely spend a portion of their wages locally. Economists call this the “multiplier effect ,” and it can bring big change to an area—even when the business is small.

Holiday Shopping With SoFi Checking and Savings

Even if your favorite local business only accepts cash, ATM fees don’t have to be an issue. With a SoFi Checking and Savings® checking and savings account, withdraw cash from 55,000+ ATMs worldwide and we’ll reimburse you for the fees. Our goal is to eliminate as many fees as possible. That being said, our fee structure is subject to change at any time.

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