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Shop small and local: How to score rewards and support local small businesses

Buying from small merchants can contribute to your community's vitality and help you save on holiday shopping

Summary

Here’s how to improve your small-business shopping strategies, starting on Small Business Saturday and continuing throughout the year.

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If you want to save money, support your community and earn rewards on your holiday purchases, one of your best options is to shop small and local. When you spend your money at local businesses, a portion of your hard-earned dollars go right back into the community – ensuring that your neighborhood can continue to support the kind of retailers that provide one-of-a-kind products, services, classes and opportunities.

This includes small businesses like Pink House Alchemy, a Fayetteville, Arkansas, retailer that sells farm-to-bottle syrups, bitters and shrubs. “When COVID hit the U.S. last year, it was devastating,” explains founder and CEO Emily Lawson. “We shuttered our business in March 2020 after losing 80% of our business, all while I was seven months pregnant with my third child. I was so worried for my staff and how they would get by. I was scared for myself and our children. It was some of the most intense moments of my life. But we persevered.”

The commitment paid off – not only for Lawson’s small business but also for its loyal customers. “We are now trending better than ever,” she told us. This year, she and her staff are preparing for a bigger-than-ever holiday shopping season while navigating potential supply chain issues. “All of us at Pink House are on guard and ready for last-minute delays. We have backup plans for our backup plans and, thankfully, our customers are very willing to roll with the punches.”

Rachel Liverman, founder and CEO of NYC-based Glowbar, is also preparing for a busy holiday shopping season. “Last year, no one was really going out or shopping Small Business Saturday in person – it was bleak. This year, I’m expecting to see a lot more excitement around the holiday season and a lot more in-person shopping.”

If you’re planning on spending part of your holiday season supporting small businesses, it’s a good idea to know how to get as much out of your purchases as possible – whether you’re hoping to build your community, take advantage of local sales and discounts or earn credit card rewards on everything you buy. That’s why we’ve put together a guide to help you improve your small-business shopping strategies, starting on Small Business Saturday and continuing through the rest of the year.

Why supporting small business is important

If you’re interested in supporting small businesses, you’re not alone. “From what I’ve personally experienced with Glowbar, people have continued to be just as eager and ecstatic to support local, small businesses compared to last year,” Liverman told us.

Justin Hoffman, co-owner of Otown Flowers, agrees. “A lot of weddings and events we service have downsized or are still postponed, but we’ve seen standard deliveries increase. We suspect that people who haven’t been able to see each other in person are finding different ways to show they care.”

When you buy local, you’re not only taking the opportunity to show someone you care, you’re also investing in small-business owners, their staff and the local community. Supporting small, local businesses is one of the best ways to contribute to the vitality of your neighborhood, especially if you combine your purchasing power with other forms of support, such as attending events hosted by small businesses or promoting small businesses on social media.

While foot traffic is an essential element of most small-business success, today’s small businesses have found plenty of ways to connect with customers online and in person. And while many small retailers sell products through their own storefronts and websites, they also work with major online retailers like Amazon to connect with customers around the world. “We are so lucky to have such loyal customers who support our small business and continue to visit us locally at our retail store in Fayetteville,” says Lawson, “in addition to purchasing product through our website, Amazon and Walmart.com.”

This gives you ample opportunity to support small businesses no matter how you plan to shop this holiday season – in person, online or on mobile.

Six ways to support small businesses

“Supporting small businesses can go beyond purchasing gifts at our stores,” says Hoffman. If you want to improve your small business support strategy, here are six additional ways to ensure your favorite local businesses get what they need to succeed:

  • Support them online. A lot of people think shopping locally means visiting small businesses in person, but most local business owners allow you to make purchases online, as well. A recent CreditCards.com survey indicated that 62% of holiday shoppers plan to make the majority of their purchases online this year – but that doesn’t mean you have to leave small businesses out of your holiday shopping strategy. Some small businesses even offer free delivery to local residents!
  • Buy gift cards. Gifts are great, but when you give someone a gift card to a local business, you are giving someone the opportunity to visit a trusted local retailer in person – and you’re also giving the local business the opportunity to form a relationship with a new customer.
  • Attend community events. Many small businesses host or sponsor community events, from trunk-or-treats to Turkey Trots. These events build community and strengthen the relationship between businesses and customers. Whether you’re signing up for a wine-tasting class or registering for a book club, start adding small-business events to your calendar.
  • Eat locally. The next time you don’t know what to do for dinner, pick a local restaurant over a national chain. Eat locally often enough and you might become a regular – which often means big smiles when you walk in the door and even the opportunity to try new dishes or desserts before they hit the main menu.
  • Tip well. Supporting small businesses also means supporting the people who work on staff – and some of those workers depend on tips to make ends meet. A recent CreditCards.com survey revealed that people are less likely to tip in 2021 than they were in 2019, which isn’t good for small businesses or the community. Whether you’re dining in or ordering takeout, make sure you give everyone involved the tips they deserve.
  • Promote small businesses on social media. “We really love to connect with our customers on social media,” says Lawson. “People can be so creative and it’s such a great feeling to see something someone created with your product.” Not feeling especially creative? There are plenty of other ways to support small businesses on social. “Liking a photo on Instagram or leaving a review on Google can be the difference between whether a potential customer decides to call us or not,” Hoffman explains. Sharing your love of a local business on social media can help connect new customers with the business.

support small businesses

Shopping local during Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday takes place annually on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, but not many people know that this shopping holiday was originated and launched by American Express in 2010. Since then, Amex has expanded the idea from a single Saturday in November to a year-long movement called Shop Small.

We’ll let Amex explain how Shop Small got started: “American Express cares deeply about thriving communities and believes small businesses are at the core of every thriving neighborhood. That’s why – in the midst of the recession in 2010 – we created Small Business Saturday on the Saturday after Thanksgiving to encourage people to Shop Small and bring more holiday shopping to small businesses.”

There are a lot of benefits to shopping at small businesses, whether you are targeting the Saturday after Thanksgiving or committing to shop locally throughout the year. Small businesses can provide a sense of community that you are unlikely to get from shopping at a big-box store or ordering online from a major retailer. Once you get to know a small-business owner, they may be able to recommend products, create personalized items or connect you with other community members who share similar interests.

Plus, shopping small gives you the opportunity to take advantage of your favorite local retailer’s sales and special offers – and these offers are likely to be in abundance during Small Business Saturday. “We are planning several giveaways, in-store grabs and a couple of other day-of surprises to show our deep gratitude to our customers for getting us through the last two years and continuing their love and support of Pink House,” Lawson says. If you are hoping to save money while shopping locally, Small Business Saturday is one of the best ways to get the job done.

Small Business Saturday is also an excellent opportunity to purchase items in-person, without having to worry about shipping, logistics or supply chain issues. That said, it’s a good idea to make your purchases as early as possible. Small-business owners are also dealing with shipping delays and a potential lack of supplies – and this year, your favorite retailers could run out of certain bestselling items.

“The floral industry has faced a lot of supply chain issues,” Hoffman told us. “The biggest way a customer can guarantee success is to call ahead as early as possible, no matter what you’re looking for.”

Liverman agrees. “I would absolutely advise everyone to shop much earlier, in general, this year.”

If a must-have item is not in stock, don’t worry. “A small-business owner will always have a suggestion for an alternative,” says Hoffman – which is just one more benefit of shopping small.

How to get credit card rewards on Small Business Saturday

You have plenty of ways to earn credit card rewards on Small Business Saturday, especially if you have a top rewards credit card in your wallet. A flat-rate cash back card is a great way to earn Small Business Saturday credit card rewards, since you get the same cash back percentage no matter where you shop. The Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card, for example, offers 2% cash back on every purchase – making it an excellent choice for shopping at businesses of all sizes.

You might also consider a credit card that rewards restaurant spending. Many consumers spent the early days of the pandemic supporting small businesses by ordering takeout (and, in some cases, toilet paper) from their favorite local restaurants – and this Small Business Saturday, you can continue to show your support by making a lunch reservation, bringing home a pizza or even picking up a gift card. The Citi Premier® Card offers 3 points per dollar on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels, giving you the opportunity to earn high-level rewards not only on Small Business Saturday, but also throughout the holiday shopping and travel seasons.

If you have an American Express credit card, you can use Amex’s Shop Small tools to find small businesses that accept American Express. If you have The Platinum Card® from American Express in your wallet, you can earn 10X Membership Rewards points on eligible purchases when you Shop Small in the U.S. and at restaurants worldwide (on up to $25,000 in combined purchases in your first six months with the card).

Remember, any rewards you earn can help to cover the cost of the holidays, whether you’re saving up miles for holiday travel, turning cash back into statement credits or redeeming points for gifts.

Final thoughts

“People are definitely eager to support small business,” Hoffman told us. “I think the pandemic has led a lot of people to seek new ways to connect with their communities, and supporting nearby businesses is one of those ways.” Whether you’re placing a takeout order at the end of a busy day, setting aside a Sunday afternoon to attend a class at a local retailer or building your holiday shopping list around small businesses, taking the time to shop locally can have significant benefits – not just in your own life, but also in the lives of everyone around you.

“This year in particular, there is a whole new sense of gratitude for being here as a small business, thriving and growing,” explains Lawson. Pink House Alchemy would not have been able to survive the pandemic without the support of its customers – but those same customers are just as grateful to spend their hard-earned dollars at a small business offering one-of-a-kind products. The support goes both ways.

That’s why it’s so important to shop locally this holiday season, especially if you are able to use your shopping savvy to save money, support small businesses and earn credit card rewards that can be redeemed for even more holiday savings. Consider it a gift not only to your friends and family, but also to your community – many of whom will spend Small Business Saturday doing the exact same thing.

“I’ve seen more activity around Small Business Saturday with every passing year,” says Hoffman. “I expect it will continue to grow!”

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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