Beyond Small Business Saturday: Supporting Local Businesses

December 2, 2013

By Angelina Panettieri

Last weekend, many of NLC’s member cities supported the small businesses in their communities through participation in Small Business Saturday. The event is designed to encourage shoppers to keep their holiday business local by visiting small retailers in their communities the weekend after Thanksgiving. Small Business Saturday allows local retailers a competitive edge with big-box stores and online sellers, and emphasizes the economic and social value to communities of purchasing locally.

Some of the activities that took place around the country last weekend included:

  • Washington, D.C. — In addition to President Obama’s annual shopping excursion to a local independent bookstore, Barracks Row Main Street hosted a merchant walk in conjunction with the Small Business Saturday Street Art Program, which is creating a neighborhood mural celebrating small businesses.
  • Boston — Roslindale Village Main Street held its annual tree lighting, at which Mayor Menino announced a new local shopping mobile app.
  • Coral Gables, Fla. — The Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce held a full day of shopping, performances and special events.
  • Seattle —Seven neighborhoods in Seattle participated in the city’s Shop Small Seattle/Only in Seattle campaign.
  • Beverly Hills, Calif. — The Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce handed out Small Business Saturday reusable shopping bags to local shoppers.

The small businesses operating in downtown business districts, main streets and other neighborhoods around the country serve as anchors for their communities by hosting events, contributing to local charities and improving their surroundings. However, these businesses are often at a disadvantage against online retailers, particularly during the crucial holiday shopping season. Local brick-and-mortar stores contribute sales tax revenue to their states and municipalities, but must compete against online sellers who offer customers a “discount” by not charging the sales tax owed.

NLC advocates for marketplace fairness: a leveling of the playing field for local retailers and online businesses. Marketplace fairness would not entail a new tax and would allow cities to collect the revenue owed them while helping local businesses. One bill, the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2012, has already passed the Senate with widespread bipartisan support. However, marketplace fairness legislation has languished in the House of Representatives, and the House Judiciary Committee leadership has declined to grant the matter a public hearing.

 NLC is asking all of its members, as well as their networks to make the most of the few working days left in this legislative session and contact their representatives in the House and urge them to call on House Judiciary Committee Chairman Goodlatte (R-Va.) for a hearing.  Send an email or make a phone call using the easy online tool NLC has provided. Please take a moment out of this busy holiday season to make that call or send that message, and to share the links with local community groups, such as Chambers of Commerce or business development district participants.

Congress needs to know that local leaders in business and in government support marketplace fairness for to strengthen local economies. Please take action now.