If you're heading out to the stores Saturday, think small and think local.
Malls, national department store chains and big box stores lured customers in with deals and super early hours Thursday and again today.
Now it's time for locally owned, Mid-Columbia businesses to reap the rewards of your holiday spending. The idea is part of a Small Business Saturday promotion founded by American Express four years ago to help solve one of small business owners' most pressing needs -- finding more customers.
"When you spend locally, your dollars, for the most part, stay local," said Colin Hastings, executive director of the Pasco Chamber of Commerce.
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Hastings said he supports Small Business Saturday on two levels, personally and as chamber director.
"I used to be a small business owner and know how important community support is for success. Because of that, my family always looks to local stores, local businesses first," he said.
Sure, Hastings said, large businesses and big box stores provide convenience.
"But the customer service aspect of small businesses cannot be beat. Someone local has a vested interest in the community. And the fact that they are your neighbors needs to count for a lot," he said.
Having the money stay in the community means a lot to Cindy Bitzer, owner of The Bookworm stores in Kennewick and Richland.
"We help support our city and vice versa," she said.
Her business is also "green" because it handles used as well as new books. It also takes special orders -- usually receiving them in one to three days.
A survey conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business for American Express revealed that 70 percent attracted to small businesses said it's because they can find gifts for people who are hard to shop for.
And 21 percent said one of the main reasons they patronize small businesses is because they offer better prices.
Those comments are often echoed by Cheri Manley's customers.
"They say I carry things that are unique and the prices are good," she said. Manley owns She She's, a gift shop in downtown Kennewick.
She's been expanding her selection of gourmet foods, searching out those primarily made in the Northwest.
Manley calls Small Business Saturday an important promotion.
"Because most people in small businesses have employees. It's not just about the owner," Manley said.
Shopping small includes patronizing local thrift stores like Goodwill Industries.
"The majority of our revenue from retail sales -- more than 99.99 percent -- stays right here in the community," said Joy Murphy, retail director for Goodwill.
The money is used to fuel Goodwill's mission, which, in a nutshell, is changing lives through the power of work, Murphy said.
Goodwill stores are doing their own Black Friday, opening an hour early, at 8 a.m.
"But we anticipate being busy all weekend. People don't realize, but we put out thousands of items out on the floor of the stores every day. You can come in at 9 a.m. and find nothing, come back at 2 p.m. and find the treasure of your dreams," Murphy said.
Stock at thrift stores is truly eclectic. You never know what you'll find and every day is like Christmas, Murphy said.
American Express card holders who register their card will received a one-time $10 statement credit when they use their card for a purchase of $10 or more at a qualifying small business. There is a limit to the number of people who can enroll.
For more information or to enroll an American Express card in the Small Business Saturday program, go to www.shopSmall.com.
w Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; firstname.lastname@example.org