Tatered Cover book Store in Denver.
(Photo: Ed Andrieski, AP)
Thanksgiving weekend traditions: eating turkey on Thursday, checking bargains on Friday, shopping at local small businesses on Saturday. Yes, in just four short years, the Saturday after Thanksgiving has become ingrained in American life as the day to show support of, and shop at, local, independently owned businesses - Small Business Saturday.
This year, there's a particular type of small business I want you to be certain to shop at on Small Business Saturday - an independent bookstore. You'll even have a chance to meet one of your favorite authors!
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"IndiesFirst was the name that (National Book Award winner) Sherman Alexie coined when he sent out the challenge to his fellow authors to demonstrate their support by working in an indie bookstore on Small Business Saturday," said Oren Teicher, chief executive of the American Booksellers Association.
"Now is the time to be a superhero for independent bookstores," Alexie urged his fellow authors. "I want all of us... to spend an amazing day hand-selling books at your local independent bookstore on Small Business Saturday."
The response was amazing: in less than two months, more than 1.000 authors signed up, and more sign on every day. "Celebrity" authors like Dave Barry, Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket), Diana Gabaldon, Richard Russo responded. My good friend, Alice LaPlante, author of the spine-tingling mystery Turn of Mind (soon to be a motion picture - you go, Alice!) will be at Kepler's in Menlo Park, Calif. And I'll be at Bloomsbury Books in Ashland, Ore. (Check this map to find a bookstore with an author participating near you: www.indiebound.org/indies-first.)
With the rise of ebooks, predatory pricing by some online booksellers, and the fall of Borders as evidence, many people think bookstores are destined to go the way of record stores. Not so.
"IndiesFirst is part of a significant independent bookstore resurgence all across the country," said Teicher. "Contrary to the popular narrative about independent bookstores being endangered, ABA has seen a modest growth in membership with new stores opening; existing stores expanding."
That's because people who love to read appreciate bookstores. "All the evidence points to the fact that consumers are far more likely to discover books while browsing in a bricks-and-mortar store than anywhere else; in part, because that's where they'll find knowledgeable booksellers," said Teicher.
"One of the ways bookstores thrive is because they are intimately involved in their local communities. The people who work there, live there. They know local tastes. They're able to put the right book into a customer's hand."
And by shopping at independent bookstores, just as when you shop at any independent local business, you help sustain your very own neighborhood.
For every $100 spent at a local store, $68 stays in your community (according to research firm Civic Economics). Shop at a chain store? Only $43. And when you shop online? Virtually nothing. Shopping locally means your neighborhood has more money for schools, fire and police departments, roads. You help create jobs. The value of your home rises.
Small Business Saturday has been part of a growing "localism" movement. And while American Express deserves substantial credit as the original engine behind it (for four years, they've committed millions in advertising, providing cash back to cardholders, lining up other partners), Small Business Saturday has caught on far beyond any corporate initiative.
More than two-thirds of Americans know of "Small Business Saturday," and it's estimated that $5.5 billion was spent in independent small businesses and restaurants on that day last year.
This year, if you're an American Express cardholder, you can register to get a $10 Amex statement credit for shopping small. You can register beginning at 12 a.m. MST on Sunday, Nov. 24, and the offer will continue through Nov. 30, but the number of registrations is limited, so hurry. You can find more information and a map of participating stores at www.ShopSmall.com. (Stores have to sign up with Amex to be included -- so if you're a merchant, be sure to do that.)
If you're a store owner, you can get also get free advertising support from Small Business Saturday partners Twitter and FourSquare and free printing of a "Small Business Saturday" poster from FedEx.
Small Business Saturday is a win/win for everyone. So on Saturday, Nov. 30, shop small -- and be sure to check out a local bookstore.
Rhonda Abrams is president of The Planning Shop and publisher of books for entrepreneurs. Her most recent book is Entrepreneurship: A Real-World Approach. Register for Rhonda's free newsletter at PlanningShop.com. Twitter:@RhondaAbrams. Facebook:facebook.com/RhondaAbramsSmallBusiness.Copyright Rhonda Abrams 2013.