I’m a fan of Small Business Saturday for some obvious reasons, but perhaps my favorite reason is not as obvious. 

I have now been doing business is villages for almost five years. In that time I have met some excellent people from all types of businesses. We all know that the larger retailers and online shopping are two huge forces in the consumer-spending segment.

Today I want to focus on what I believe is the single largest advantage the small business has over these big box and online retailers: service and straight mastery of product. I won’t use any names, but I have some examples from both the villages of Babylon and Patchogue that I want to share.

Both villages we do business in have excellent shoe stores. I say they are excellent because they feature multi-generational shoe salespeople. Every time I have pressing footwear need, I go to these stores. Running a retail business with long hours on my feet, believe me when I say I have issues at times.

I walk into these stores and explain my current issue and what I am looking to achieve, like a doctor these folks in the shoe stores prescribe the answer. Sometimes it is a different type of shoe or a different sole for the shoe. Whatever the issue, they get to the bottom of it and solved it. 

One time in the last two years, I had to go to a big box shoe store. I only went because my smaller shoe stores did not have what I needed. (Believe me; I checked.) The experience was like cold shock. There were shoes stacked miles high and nobody anywhere in sight to help me and my wife. Shoe type, fit, and sizes – we were on our own.

But it isn’t just shoe stores. If I need meat, there are butcher shops in small villages that are second to none. I don’t buy meat in big box stores any more — if I can avoid it. I could keep going. Cheese shops, olive oil stores, and ladies clothing/hosiery stores are all found in these smaller towns. The owners and staffers are treasure troves of information and experience.

So today I have two messages:

For the consumer, shop small for many reasons. You will enjoy and benefit from the service you receive. You might not get the item for the cheapest price in town, but you will be paired with exactly what you need. I find I make virtually no returns with items purchased from smaller businesses. 

If you own a smaller business, be proud of who you are and what you offer. You are not a big box or national retailer. Odds are your staff is mainly you plus a few key players, but you can outshine these big boxes, because you know your product or service cold. Be proud of that, and try to convey that to the consumer. 

I’m amazed how many small businesses don’t push their experience and service. 

Hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving.

Side note, our turkey was from a family butcher shop!