In the past few years, several big national retailers have closed up shop in Grand Island. But with a retail draw of about a quarter of a million people, Grand Island and the area small communities are not hurting for retail diversity and choice this holiday season.

According to the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce, small, locally-owned businesses make up the backbone of the community’s retail shops and stores. They both offer a wide selection of unique holiday gift items and, collectively, are the biggest employers in town.

Typically, the Saturday after Black Friday has been celebrated as Small Business Saturday. This year, though, with a shorter shopping season as Thanksgiving is on Nov. 28, the chamber has decided to declare all of November for its “Shop Small (and Local)” campaign.

Typically, said Cindy Johnson, president of the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce, the chamber promotes Shop Small Saturday (Nov. 30) as an alternative to Black Friday.

“This year, we are expanding the holiday Shop Small sentiment to a year-round mentality and sharing information about the importance of doing business locally,” Johnson said.

There are plenty of reasons why people should shop local, she said. For example, every dollar spent in Grand Island “turns over” up to seven times.

“That means that money spent elsewhere will take away $7 in trade, wages, taxes and benefits from Grand Island,” Johnson said. “If $100 is spent online or in another city, Grand Island does not benefit from that purchase. It becomes $700 for a faceless online business or another community.”

She said it is a matter of simple economics.

“Shop and buy in Grand Island, as those are the businesses that support the projects that are important to all of us,” Johnson said.

Dana Dennison, vice president of the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce, is overseeing the shop locally campaign.

Dennison said the multiplying effect of a dollar spent locally demonstrates not only the importance of shopping local, but many more ways that it benefits the community.

“When spending the same money at a store not locally owned, only $43 stays in our community,” she said. “Low sales and limited cash flow are the main reasons local businesses close. It is tough for small businesses to survive their first five years in business.”

Dennison said the survival rate of businesses that remain open for their first five years is 50.76%, according to the Kauffman index.

“This is why we should do shopping and buying locally as a way of life,” she said.

Dennison said Americans statistically spend more money when they shop in stores, especially when they can look at the product in hand before they purchase. It also makes returns easier and you do not have to worry about privacy concerns like you do when shopping on the internet.

“A top reason that shoppers choose local stores is the unique product selection that you cannot find online,” she said. “Employees are committed to locally-owned businesses because these businesses are the linchpins of the community’s attachment and sustainability.”

Dennison said these are the businesses that make donations to school sports teams or community nonprofit programs.

“It is less common for chain stores to give back to the community,” she said.

National statistics show shopping local also helps to save the environment, Dennison said.

“Packaging, shipping and transportation costs all have a negative impact on the environment, so when you shop local, you are eliminating unnecessary waste,” she said.

According to data from the Census Bureau’s Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs, Dennison said, employers with fewer than 500 workers employed 46.8% of private-sector payrolls in 2016. Employers with fewer than 100 workers employed 33.4%. Private small business owners support close to half of the jobs in the labor force.

She said the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce is committed to promoting shopping and buying local.

“The month of November showcases Shop Small Saturday, Nov. 30,” Dennison said. “It is imperative that we have more than a one-month or holiday mindset; we encourage you to consider buying local all year-round.”

She said the chamber challenges local and area consumers to look for a local retailer or service provider this year instead of an online or out-of-town retailer.

“If you order something monthly from the internet that is available locally, please purchase locally,” Dennison said. “If every one of us changes just one service to local, think about the economic impact for our community.”

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