Small Business Saturday has slowly become an American tradition following the Thanksgiving holiday. Brick-and-mortar businesses across the country promote their best deals of the year in hopes of luring shoppers from online purchases. It was not so long ago that Americans would visit locally owned small retailers in a downtown area to purchase all of their gifts. Business owners would decorate their shops with lights and ornaments, or create elaborate window displays, to grab the imagination of a passerby to lure them inside. The holiday shopping season was a magical time of year, and many of us still hold on to those memories today.

Given the dramatic shifts in the retail environment over the last 20 years, those holiday scenes and traditions are in danger of passing into the realm of nostalgia. Recent surveys show that over 80% of Americans make regular online purchases throughout the year. Many locally owned businesses struggle to find new ways to compete with mega online shopping sites. In order to better compete, small business owners have become very innovative in the way they sell and promote their products and services. Some are bringing back the retail traditions of the past by providing personalized one-on-one assistance to customers, and the selling of niche items found nowhere else in town.

Although online merchants have driven many retailers into closing their doors, small business remains the one stable job creator in most communities across Montana. The state’s 119,000 small businesses generate two of every three net new jobs, and deliver essential goods and services in both rural and urban communities. They employ more than 245,000 Montanans, and make this state a better place to live in. As the voice of America’s entrepreneurs, the U.S. Small Business Administration celebrates the nation’s 30 million small businesses that still ignite our local economies and enrich our communities throughout the year.

In 2018, Small Business Saturday provided a huge boost to the overall U.S. economy when 104 million consumers shopped or dined small and generated nearly $18 billion in reported spending. With the increased consumer confidence in the economy, this year’s Small Business Saturday, on Nov. 30, promises to be even brighter.

American workers continued to see higher wages and paychecks over the last several quarters. In October, 128,000 jobs were created nationwide, surpassing expectations. The unemployment rate remains historically low at 3.6%, its lowest point in nearly 50 years. This translates into great news for small retailers and restaurants across the country because consumer spending during the holidays is expected to remain strong at 2.9% as a result of our growing economy. These positive numbers have helped small businesses, the backbone of Montana’s economy, to thrive and grow.

Economic prosperity is good news not only for America’s small businesses themselves but for society as a whole. In so many ways, small businesses act as the glue that holds our communities together. They fund the local tax base, finance local nonprofits and charitable organizations, and create good jobs that boost the overall marketplace. By backing our locally owned small businesses, you support the thousands of jobs they create and the families they sustain. Small businesses are the backbone of our democracy, and the future solution to our most pressing economic problems.

On Nov. 30, Small Business Saturday, please join us in making at least one purchase from a locally owned small business in your city or town. These business owners are the true heroes of our community, and they deserve our appreciation.

Dan Nordberg is regional administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration; Wayne Gardella is Montana District Director for the agency.

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