Giving Back for the Holidays. Where Are You Spending Your Time and Money?

November brings fall colors and colder weather for most of us. We all know the fourth Thursday in November (in the U.S.) is the day we spend with friends and family to say “thanks” for all we have. Over the last few decades, U.S. retailers have conditioned shoppers to visit retail stores and the malls on Black Friday then jump on their computer on Cyber Monday.

What started out as regular shopping hours on the Friday after Thanksgiving has turned into chaos with big crowds, supposed “deals” and store hours that begin earlier and earlier each year and add extra stress to retail employees. Some retailers have even been open on Thanksgiving. Cyber Monday often results in lower productivity in the office as employees do their online holiday shopping from their desks.

If you want to add extra meaning and purpose to the holiday season and inspire others to do the same, there are some other days you may want to mark on your calendar and share with your employees, customers and community.

The #OptOutside campaign was started by outdoor retailer REI in 2015 as a counter to Black Friday and encourages its employees and members (REI is a co-op) to get outdoors, explore and enjoy nature. Although REI closes its doors on Black Friday, consumers can still shop on the REI web site that day. Prior to the inaugural #OptOutside campaign Jerry Stritzke, president and CEO of REI, said, “Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of the essential truth that life is richer, more connected and complete when you choose to spend it outside.” 

To date, the #OptOutside campaign has resulted in millions of ad impressions, several advertising awards, over 700 corporate and non-profit partners and participation by 8 million members and employees. In 2016, REI reported a 5.5% increase in annual revenues and invested $9.3 million with its non-profit partners.

Small Business Saturday, shines a light on small, locally owned businesses. This national campaign, started by American Express in 2010, helps small businesses promote themselves to the local community with marketing materials and ideas for neighborhood events.

According to a compilation of studies by Civic Economics, local and independent retailers recirculate 48% of their revenues back into the local economy vs. about 13% for national retailers. If you shop online with a national chain, even less goes back to the local community. About 3% of local retailers’ revenues go back to the community as charitable giving. Local businesses are 2-1/2 times more likely to make donations to local charities versus national chains. Shopping at local businesses can also benefit the environment since many are within walking or biking distance of their customers.

Going beyond supporting the local community is Shop For Good Sunday, a new campaign for 2017 that guides shoppers to support brands – both brick and mortar and online – that make a commitment to do good for the world. The campaign is the idea of DoneGood, a social enterprise and Certified B Corporation® that created a free Chrome extension, web site and mobile application “to make it easy to help people find and support brands that make the world better.” Approximately 45 brands are partnering with Shop For Good Sunday. It’s free for socially responsible businesses, including Certified B Corporations®, to participate. To be considered as a partner, go here.

Since it is the end of the year we should think about non-profit organizations that need our financial support.  #GivingTuesday, which began in 2012, rounds out November with a kickoff to year-end philanthropy. In 2015 that one day of giving resulted in raising $177 million in 98 countries with an average donation of $107. Corporations, small businesses, universities, schools, organizations and individuals can visit the web site to learn about how to run a successful giving campaign and use the power of social media to direct potential donors to specific causes.

Business leaders should remind their employees of these important days at the end of November as days to spend exploring the outdoors, supporting their local communities and making purchases from companies that give back or donate directly to causes that are important to them.

November to Remember (Hashtags and 2017 Dates)

#OptOutside – November 24

#ShopSmall (Small Business Saturday) – November 25

#ShopForGoodSunday – November 26

#GivingTuesday – November 28

By Mark Frieden, President, Crossbow Strategies

Buying Local for a Stronger Community and Economy

With the holidays upon us we reflect on what we’re thankful for; prosperity, good health, good friends and family. It’s also the time when many of us start our holiday shopping and head to the malls or to our Internet devices. After all that shopping we may meet up with family and friends at a restaurant or bar. What if we shopped, dined and drank at locally owned businesses instead of national chains?

Falling in between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday™ started in the town of Roslindale, Massachusetts, on November 27, 2010 to encourage holiday shoppers to buy from small, local retailers. Small Business Saturday™ is trademarked by American Express and is now championed by small businesses and elected officials in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In 2014 over $14 billion was spent at small independent businesses on that day, and in 2015 over 95 million Americans participated in Small Business Saturday™.

While these are great statistics for one day, what are the benefits to small businesses, their customers and the communities they serve the other 364 days of the year? Several independent studies have shown that the “multiplier effect” of spending money at locally owned retailers returns three times more money to the local economy versus spending at national chains. When compared to online retailers it’s a multiple of 50 times more going to the local economy. Dining at locally owned restaurants versus chains returns twice the money.

Small retail and restaurant owners often support other locally owned small businesses by purchasing products and services needed to run the business. This includes accounting, technology and printing services, office supplies and equipment and food. Locally owned businesses often pay higher wages compared to big-box retailers thus strengthening the local economy and reducing government assistance. When there is a critical mass of local businesses in a city or county, it’s an even bigger boost to the local economy.

Since many locally owned businesses locate in residential areas, customers can walk, bike or drive fewer miles to get there, creating less traffic and pollution versus driving to the big-box retailers or the malls. Locally owned retailers often carry locally produced products, thus boosting the “maker economy” in their communities. Restaurants often source from local farms where food tastes better than if it’s shipped across the country.

Other reasons to Shop Small include higher overall customer satisfaction, more knowledgeable staff and more community involvement – including making donations to local charities. As you shop and dine this holiday season think about your community and supporting the local store and restaurant owners, employees and producers that make it a more prosperous place to live, work and play.