As the holiday shopping season kicks into high gear, community members are being reminded to keep it local.

While Black Friday marks the start of deals at big box stores, Small Business Saturday is dedicated to local communities and encourages shoppers to patronize brick and mortar businesses that are small and local – a concept both the Howell and Brighton Chambers of Commerce support.

There’s lots of activity in downtown Howell and a busy weekend is expected. Howell Main Street Chief Operating Officer Cathleen Edgerly says the Fantasy of Lights parade is a beloved event in the Howell community that really kicks off the festive holiday season. She says a lot of people come home and it’s a great opportunity to visit downtown and view all the beautiful storefronts. Edgerly says businesses really went all out this year to decorate their storefronts as part of a contest with the theme of winter fun, so there’s lots of lights and creative décor.

As for Small Business Saturday, Edgerly says it’s a national movement to support small, local businesses and Howell is fortunate to have so many unique shopping and dining opportunities with freebies and special discounts. Edgerly tells WHMI many people will kick off their holiday shopping this weekend to check things off their Christmas list. She says downtown businesses offer something different, unique and special that stand out from what you typically find in big box stores. Edgerly says storefronts are decorated, making it a wonderful experience with warm treat and drinks – adding it’s a big shopping day for businesses it helps sustain them through the long winter months as well. Edgerly says Uptown Coffeehouse will serve as Howell’s Small Business Saturday headquarters. Starting at 9am, the first 200 people will get “Shop Small” tote bags full of participating merchant coupons, giveaways and a list of businesses offering specials.

The Greater Brighton Area Chamber of Commerce is encouraging people to shop locally not just during the holiday season but year round. President and CEO Pam McConeghy says as a Chamber of Commerce, they support small business and stand behind Giving Tuesday but noted they really support local retailers and non-profits year round in all their endeavors. She asks that people remember to shop local, even if it isn’t the downtown stores but places like Green Oak Village Place mall because they’re still supporting the local economy and that’s what’s most important.

McConeghy tells WHMI to keep downtowns vibrant, people need to not just shop for sales on Black Friday or Small Business Saturday but look at the value downtowns in various communities offer to the area. She says people might move out to Brighton Township because they like living on acreage perhaps but also having a downtown they can be proud of to visit, shop and dine. In order for downtowns to be economically vital, she says people need to shop in local stores and while sometime things might be a few extra bucks, business owners have to pay for not only taxes but general upkeep of their store and other expenses.

Small Business Saturday was formed as a way to get people into local stores but as that trend grows, so is Cyber Monday - which McConeghy says really seems to work against SBS. She says it’s so easy to shop online but in order to keep a city vibrant, people must frequent local stores and main streets, as well as local malls. McConeghy added everything changed with electronic shopping and from roughly 1992 to 2017 billions of dollars have been spent online, which could have been spent in local stores. McConeghy says retailers are not complaining but it’s obvious to her that shopping online with Amazon or others does hurt the bottom line of retailers downtown and elsewhere, like local malls. What she does hear from retailers is that when people are shopping for Christmas or birthdays, they’re going online to save money on shipping etc, and that does affect downtowns. Furthermore and unfortunately, McConehgy says people will come in to a store, act like they’re shopping but then take down different numbers and codes on items and instead make the purchase online. She says it’s very obvious to the store owner and something that happens regularly. (JM)