OUR OPINION: Shop Local Saturday also focuses on retail

Today’s a benchmark day in retail sales across the United States, the traditional start of the Christmas gift shopping season.

A lot of the attention will be focused on what happens in the big national chain stores because their sales are used to measure how the shopping season will trend.

However, another segment of the retail economy, the locally owned, smaller businesses also count on the season to make their profit margin for the year, so it’s appropriate that American Express, a big financial services company, has designated tomorrow as Small Business Saturday or, in some cases, Shop Local Saturday.

There was a time when shopping local, with independently owned, locally headquartered retailers was the dominant retail trade of the Christmas season, but times and marketing and growth in chain companies shifted the dynamic. There’s nothing inherently wrong in shopping with what are called the “big box” stores. They do employ a lot of local people, and those paychecks spend as well in Northeast Mississippi’s economy as any other money.

But being big in the sense that some chain stores are big isn’t necessarily the better way or the preferred way for many people to shop.

America, everyone should remember, came to its maturity as a nation of shopkeepers, the entrepreneurial spirit that is close, often personal and historically focused on exceptional individual service.

Earlier, the area’s version of the national movement started: Small Business Saturday North Mississippi.

Last week, Small Business Saturday North Mississippi was launched, with the intent to get small businesses in the region to post their specials, sales, etc. for the big shopping day.

Lisa Hawkins, owner of Room to Room, is a big supporter of the campaign, as Business Editor Dennis Seid reported in his Nov. 24 column.

“Local stores are what drive our communities,” she said. “Local owners support school programs, give back to local groups, volunteer in their communities. … they’re what make north Mississippi what it is.”

The point is not to avoid shopping at the big national stores but to keep personal options open to include the local independents. Every town has independents in some shape or form, and they can thrive because their products, service and helpfulness can match up in every way with the big, chain stores – when given an opportunity.