“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

This familiar holiday season, with its own phrase even set to music in a song, is here. It’s a time when people start preparing for Christmas, and generally, that includes picking out that special gift for those special people on your list.

We’ve got lots of great promotions planned for this year’s “Shop Local” holiday season. It’s also understandable that shoppers usually choose to do business where they perceive the best value for their time and money, but in an age where we are constantly subjected to corporate advertisements every day, perception may be a many light years from reality.

The emphasis on cheapness above all other values leads many consumers to overlook the values independent businesses provide us, both personally and in our communities. There are many solid reasons to Shop Local in the Redwood Area 365 days of the year.

I’d like to suggest that you start thinking of the “Shop Local” holiday season as “training camp” for the next 335 days or so. Many people don’t shop local because they think they can’t buy the things they need in a local store.

In many cases, that’s simply not true; small business owners are more willing to carry and stock special items their customers need in order to be more accommodating. Ask. Get to know the people behind the product. Many times, those people call you by name, which leads to more personalized service, and in general, better customer service.

Local owners, typically having invested much of their life savings in their businesses, have a natural interest in the community’s long-term health. Local businesses are essential to charitable endeavors, and their owners frequently serve on local boards and associations, supporting numerous causes.

Also, local businesses donate to local non-profits, school groups and functions and other local fundraisers, which directly benefits your friends, family, neighbors and you. A recent study showed for every $100 spent at a local business, $68 remained in the city. When you shop at locally owned stores, the money you spent stays within the community.

Local businesses are more likely to purchase from other local businesses, the local tax base grows and you help your local businesses keep each other growing. Improved schools, better roads and greater support for local police and fire departments are just a few of the data proven results of what a stronger tax base means to a local community.

Small Business Saturday, celebrated this year Nov. 30, started in 2010 as an American Express initiative to encourage consumers to shop small and local during the holiday season. Sandwiched in between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, small businesses stand out thanks in part to the national media attention Small Business Saturday generates, but also in part to the individual efforts small business owners nationwide contribute to make this day one of a kind. 

More than 90 million people have participated in Small Business Saturday since its beginning. Small businesses should be celebrated 365 days of the year, but Small Business Saturday is a great opportunity for small businesses to gain exposure, capitalize on increased sales potential and participate with other businesses in a unified community effort.

“Our goal with the Neighborhood Champions program is to encourage communities to come together on Small Business Saturday to support their local small businesses. We’re working closely with local partners, like the Chambers of Commerce, to help amplify these events,” said Lisette Bernstein, with American Express.

Redwood Area Chamber & Tourism has been designated a “Neighborhood Champion” and has access to a number of marketing resources and promotional items to help support activities on SBS. We’re planning great things for Small Business Saturday in the Redwood area, with giveaways and shopping incentives.

Also, make sure to take a “Saturday Selfie” in participating businesses and post the picture on our Facebook page to qualify to win fun SBS prizes.

We’re even partnering with Redwood Area schools and the Dollars for Scholars Alumni Basketball tournament and the Nick Verdoes Memorial Alumni Hockey game to promote shopping local and supporting our community businesses with a huge Redwood Area Chamber Bucks giveaway.

Stay tuned to our Facebook page and Web site for all the details. The strategy behind Shop Local is a simple one, really. Do you want that money to stay in our town, or someone else’s town?

While some may argue the phrase “Shop Local” is becoming overused, its principal message is still very relevant and essential to our rural community. Let’s encourage the values we want reflected in our community for the future. Each time we spend a dollar, we would do well to weigh the full value of our choices, not just for today, but for the future we want for our area. So join the team, gear up, and get in the “mindset shape” for the Shop Local training camp this holiday season.

The rest of the 335ish days of the year, and our community and small business owners, are counting on you.

– Anne Johnson serves as the executive director for Redwood Area Chamber and Tourism