Thanksgiving arrives later this week. Black Friday shows up the day afterwards, then Shop Local Saturday and Cyber Monday. At least, those are the official dates.
The reality is that the shopping season now spills over in advance of the traditional starts. It was inevitable, especially given that so many people will be ordering online this year. It’s a continuation of previous trends.
We’re not going to carp about that. Complaining about commercialization has been going on at least since the 60s. It was a major theme of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” after all, and that classic first appeared in 1965. If it hasn’t been halted in the half-century since then, a few words on this page sure aren’t going to do that.
Our request is different. We know folks are going to flood the major retailers and online outlets. That’s inevitable, and it’s not necessarily a problem. If, that is, you make sure to give local businesses a fair chance as well.
While big box stores and large scale shopping meccas are an entrenched part of the landscape, local businesses are the lifeblood of many communities. Census Bureau estimates suggest there could be more than 30 million small businesses in the United States, including more than 450,000 in Wisconsin alone.
Many of those businesses employ a couple of people at most. Some probably don’t have even a single full-time employee, especially those that are run as side gigs for people who want to follow their passions outside of their regular jobs. But others can have sizable numbers of employees and a significant effect on their communities.
Small businesses generally have a reputation for better customer service than chains. That’s not always true, of course. It depends heavily on the person the customer is interacting with. But many have earned that reputation. They’ve put the time and effort in to make personal connections with customers and the community.
Think about how much a community loses when small businesses disappear. They suffer the loss of an important individuality. Small businesses are often imprinted with their owners’ sense of style, service and even their senses of humor. They generally have a personality that doesn’t necessarily translate for franchises or chains.
We’re not going to spend this space pining for a time when every business was a small shop. We can’t turn back that clock any more than we can hold back commercialization. Trying to do so won’t benefit anyone.
What we can do is urge people to make sure they give local businesses a genuine chance during the holiday season. By patronizing local businesses, you can help keep money flowing in the community. You can support the businesses that support Little League teams and community events. You can play a part in keeping the Chippewa Valley the special place it is.
So, sure, do your shopping. Enjoy the season. Just carve out a bit of extra time to check out the offerings from Chippewa Valley entrepreneurs. Wander around a business’ website (you can’t catch COVID online); check whether they have something unique that will bring a smile to a loved one’s face.
The big box stores will still be there after you do. So will national chains. You can’t stop commercialization. Need proof? There’s an ornament of the tree Charlie Brown bought in that 1965 classic.
We hate to think how he’d react to it.