Guest Opinion: Small businesses need our support

Published 8:12 am Wednesday, November 25, 2020

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By Gregg Thompson 

Small businesses aren’t as glitzy as the banks and retails chains that are based here, but they’re what drives North Carolina’s economy.

They account for 99.6 percent of all businesses in the state and employ 45 percent of North Carolina’s private-sector workforce, and while it’s news whenever a big corporation adds a few hundred jobs someplace, small businesses created over 62,000 net jobs statewide in 2019, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

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We need our small businesses, and small businesses need us, especially now.

Our economy was doing pretty well until the coronavirus reached us back in the spring. Social distancing and other health restrictions resulted in a sudden, sharp decline in sales. Millions of workers lost their jobs, and some businesses simply closed.

That’s why my association, the National Federation of Independent Business, is asking everyone to shop local on Small Business Saturday and throughout the holiday season.

Small Business Saturday, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, originated 10 years ago in response to another economic crisis, the Great Recession. It was created to encourage people to shop at small, independent businesses still struggling to recover from the economic downturn. The idea was to encourage people to take a break from the usual chain stores and support the local businesses that support their communities throughout the year.

And it worked. Small Business Saturday has joined Black Friday and Cyber Monday as one of the most-talked-about shopping days of the season. Last year, Americans spent a record $19.6 billion on Small Business Saturday, according to a survey from American Express and NFIB.

Of course, this year’s Small Business Saturday will be different.

Shoppers will be asked to mask up and keep their distance from one another, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still #ShopSmall. If you’re unable to or uncomfortable with shopping in person, you can still shop local businesses online and have their purchases delivered or pick them up curbside. That’s especially true of local restaurants. Even upscale sit-down restaurants are doing a brisk business these days in take-out.

Another option is buying gift cards or gift certificates to your favorite businesses to use once this pandemic is behind us.

However you approach it, the important thing is to support local businesses.

Some of them may be doing OK, all things considered, but others are in trouble. When NFIB surveyed its small business members last month, nearly one-fifth said their businesses could last only seven months to a year under current economic conditions, while 15 percent said three to six months and 3 percent said they might have to close in a month or two.

We can’t afford to let that happen.

On the national front, NFIB is calling on Congress to pass additional financial assistance to help small businesses get through this crisis, but, locally, we can make a difference.

Small businesses aren’t owned by some faceless corporation. They’re owned by – and employ – our family and friends and neighbors. When we help, we’re really supporting each other.

Gregg Thompson is the North Carolina state director of the National Federation of Independent Business.