Dave Willems column: Small businesses need recognition as much as any

10:25 AM, Nov. 26, 2012  |  Comments
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Now that we're just about through the craziness of the themed shopping frenzy that now follows a once harmless celebration of the things we're thankful for, here's a pitch from a small business guy to all of you to extend the spirit for the one that's most critical to our local businesses: Small Business Saturday.

True, there's no denying that it's another themed day among the clutter of monikers for what previously were much-needed, relaxing family days.

And, in some ways, Small Business Saturday is even more questionable in that its genesis was driven by a credit card company - reasons to be skeptical, for sure. But the intent of this past Saturday is hard to argue with, and that's why it gets my vote for extra attention from all of us well-meaning holiday shoppers.

As the economy continues to grasp clumps of turf on the edge of the quicksand pit, allowing us to slowly pull out of the slump, our local retailers and homegrown shops as well as the small businesses that supply them need our support more than ever. With a little help from all of us, perhaps this holiday season can provide enough momentum heading into 2013 to allow the deep recession to be put to rest once and for all.

When you pop in and out of shops in downtown Appleton, for example, you get a genuine sense that things are starting to brighten a bit. Empty spaces are starting to sparkle with new energy, from a nifty wood shop here to a relocated and expanded craft and gift shop there.

Paul Jankowski, a contributor to Forbes, summed up the need in a recent piece when he noted, "While it would probably be fair to say that most people want to see their local businesses thrive and bring money and jobs to their community, the odds are stacked against them."

Jankowski goes on to note that small businesses shouldn't even worry about competing with the big boxes, rather, they should embrace what makes them special: the fact that they know their customers well and can give shoppers a much more personal experience.

In fact, he says, the movement for big biz is to "think small," which is more than a bit ironic.

Many of us who prefer the more personal shopping experience know that he's right. Now, beginning with this December, we simply need to make sure that Small Business Saturday isn't a one-and-done deal, that it's not a one-day, boy-I've-done-my-part mentality. Rather than one day, maybe it can start with a season and then continue into a consistent, year-round philosophy.

In doing so, you'll be surprised at some of the neat experiences you can walk away with by just browsing the local shops and talking with the owners, whether it's a visit to a cozy shop like Vintique in the heart of Neenah or a specialty store like Baker's Outlet in Little Chute.

Plus, there's the satisfaction of knowing that, no matter which downtowns or other small business clusters in the Fox Cities you shop, giving those businesses your business can make a world of difference.

- Dave Willems is president and founder

of Willems Marketing in Appleton. He can be reached at dave@willemsmarketing.

com or 920-831-6580.

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