Small businesses rely on holiday shopping dollars

Small Towns

By Eric Galatas, Public News Service - Nebraska

The holiday season is just around the corner, and small businesses across Nebraska are stocking up and making the case that shopping locally pays important dividends for communities.

Anna Pratt, Women's Business Center director at the Center for Rural Affairs, says small businesses have a hard time competing with big box stores and chains when it comes to advertising holiday sales on TV, or even stuffing your mailbox with circulars.

"But the extra effort that it takes to find the small businesses, I think, is paid out in the end when you get to develop a relationship with the owner and come away with some really great gifts, or decorations, or whatever you're looking for during the holiday season," she states.

Nebraska's 172,000 small businesses make up almost 99% of the state's businesses, and support jobs for nearly half of Nebraska's workers.

According to 2018 data, 11,000 new jobs were created by small businesses.

Pratt notes that growth has been slow but steady over the past decade, and to maintain that, smaller outlets need the support of community shoppers, even if the allure of low prices at big box stores can be tempting.

Leon Milobar, Nebraska district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration, says locally owned banks, hardware stores, restaurants and retail outlets have deep ties to their communities.

He points to this year's flooding crisis, when Nebraska's small business community played a vital role providing disaster relief.

Milobar adds that you'll look long and hard to find chain stores supporting local baseball and soccer teams.

"Our smaller businesses have more of an allegiance to our community, rather than some of these larger corporations that have no ties to the community at all," he states.

Retail trade makes up roughly 40% of Nebraska's small businesses, which tend to move from operating in the red into positive earning territory on the now notorious "Black Friday."

Milobar says Americans appreciate the time and attention they get at small businesses, and points to the growing success of Small Business Saturday.

Last year 140 million shoppers spent more than $17 billion at community outlets.