You hear a lot about Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but Small Business Saturday may just be the most important shopping day of the year. Why? Because it matters more to our economy, and to our communities.
Small Business Saturday is about Main Street, not Wall Street. It’s about the entrepreneurs and families who are selling things that the chains and e-commerce companies aren’t. Only small business can offer the truly unique gift and the most genuinely friendly customer service.

Small Business Saturday is also about supporting both the local economy. The chain stores are owned by bigger companies that are probably based somewhere other than your home town, but small businesses are usually owned by your neighbors. When you shop at a small business, you’re supporting your local economy and your local job base.

The day originated as a marketing campaign launched last year by American Express as a way to promote local establishments. But as president and chief executive of the National Federation of Independent Business, America’s leading small-business association, I know Small Business Saturday isn't just a gimmick.
Small business drives our economy.

While holiday shopping stories on the news tend to focus on the Fortune 500 brands everyone knows, they are missing a huge part of the economic story: the small businesses that represent 99 percent of U.S. employers and employ about half of the nation's private-sector workforce.

We can’t have a strong economy unless are small businesses are doing well – and right now they’re not doing well. They’re hurting.

The recession may be over, but according to NFIB's latest Small-Business Optimism Index, the outlook among small-business owners is still grim. Owners say their No. 1 concern is still "poor sales," followed by crushing government regulations and taxes.

The truth is that small businesses aren’t going to hire new employees if they’re worried about keeping the lights on. They aren’t going to expand or add locations if they’re worried about the torrent of new regulations coming out of Washington or a health-care package that’s going to jack up costs without doing much to increase competition and improve access to affordable coverage.

Small Business Saturday, then, is a good opportunity for people to support the establishments that mean so much to America’s economic well-being.

I know that some worry they will pay a higher price at a small business, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Especially around the holidays, small businesses offer some great values and terrific deals. NFIB is helping member businesses promote their holiday sales online at a special website, www.NFIB.com/shopsmall.

Small businesses also offer better service than you’ll find at the chain stores. Small-business owners and their employees know their merchandise and understand their customers. When you shop at a small business, there’s a good chance you’ll be dealing directly with the owner, not a distracted teenager whose main motivation might be the employee discount.

Small-business owners and their employees will do everything they can to keep you satisfied because their livelihoods depend on you coming back.

Then there's the traffic. Shopping-mall parking lots can be ugly this time of year, but small businesses are usually in neighborhoods with smaller crowds and better parking, and that can go a long way toward making your day merry and bright.

But beyond all this, there's the value that small businesses bring to the community.

Small businesses are usually owned by people who have a vested interest in the community, in its schools, in the quality of life. It’s no accident that small- business owners are among the most generous supporters of civic groups, local charities, youth sports, schools and virtually every other form of community activity.

That’s why I urge you to support Small Business Saturday – and to shop at small, independent businesses other day of the year, too.

Dan Danner is president and chief executive officer of the National Federation of Independent Business, the nation’s leading small-business association.