Lindsay Cates
Senior Manager, Communications and Strategy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


November 22, 2021


Choosing to shop small is choosing to invest in your community. This year, it’s even more meaningful as small businesses face a variety of challenges in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The holiday season, particularly after the past two years, is critical to our survival as a business, and we are always thankful for our supporters who help ensure a strong quarter before moving into the slower, colder months of the year,” said Victoria Kidd, Owner of Hideaway Café in Winchester, Virginia.

Consumers across the country agree. More than 9 in 10 (93%) shoppers said that supporting small business is more important than ever because of the pandemic, according to a recent QuickBooks survey.

The holiday season is always a critical time for local shops and restaurants—but this year businesses face unique challenges. Supply chain disruptions are holding up crucial goods and supplies, while the ongoing labor shortage means many small business owners are running their businesses short-staffed, or on limited hours.

Shop small photo Broad Street Baking Co.

For example, Adam and Amy Fazackerley, owners of bag company Lay-n-go, said the cost of a 40-foot container to ship product from Southeast Asia to the United States around this time of year was previously $5,000. The price is now $25,000. For Joe Shamess, Co-Founder of Flags of Valor, not being able to find enough workers impacts the manufacturing capacity at his veteran-owned small business in Virginia that creates wooden American flag works of art.

“The biggest challenge we’re facing right now is finding ready, willing, and able to work employees in the United States. And it’s not unique to us, it’s a challenge all of our neighbors are facing at the same time,” Shamess said.  

And this year, all signs point to high consumer demand. Nearly half (46%) of consumers started holiday shopping earlier this year than they typically do, according to a National Retail Federation survey. That’s good news for our economic recovery. A strong season this winter makes a big impact on local businesses and local communities.

For every dollar spent at a small business, American Express estimates an average of $0.67 stays in that business's local community. This has the potential to boost sales during the 2021 holiday season, with many small businesses still working to make up the revenue they’ve lost throughout the pandemic.

"The success of local businesses encourages more entrepreneurs to open shops, offer great jobs, and contribute in real, meaningful ways to the local area,” Kidd at Hideaway Café said. “It may be hard to see sometimes, but your local dollar comes back to you in a variety of ways every day from sidewalk improvements and more regular trash pickups, to adding jobs for more firefighters and hiring more EMTs.” 

Data from the MetLife and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Q4 Small Business Index, to be released in December, indicates that a large majority of small business owners (70%) say the holiday season is important to their overall yearly profit, with nearly four in ten (37%) saying it’s very important.

“Each dollar spent with intention at a small business makes a huge difference to the community, and for us personally,” said Kidd. “We're able to take care of our family, stay current on our financial obligations to the small businesses we do business with, support our employee's careers, and work to improve our local community in meaningful ways through profit sharing and in-kind donations.” 

Shop Small Everyday

This year, shopping small is easier than ever as many small businesses have bulked up their online presence during the pandemic. Kevin Hubbard, co-founder of Rhoback Activewear in Charlottesville, Virginia, says that with the growth of the digital economy, more and more entrepreneurs are starting businesses online.

“We’ve been amazed to see so many amazing new small businesses start online and these brands are creating a new marketplace outside of just the typical big box brands,” said Hubbard. “It is amazing to see this new small business world flourish, and the benefit is they are creating jobs in their home towns but also innovating to create new high-quality products.” 

If you want to get out and shop small in person, American Express has an interactive map where you can find small businesses in your area. Jeff Good, owner of Broad Street Baking Company in Jackson, Mississippi, adds that one of the best ways people can support small businesses is by buying gift cards.

Broad Street Baking

“Gift cards are ways that you can show any small retail business your love, it puts money in their bank, and it gives you a chance to give the experience to someone else to try that business. And when they go try that business, and love that business, they’re going to buy more,” Good said.  

One thing to remember this year: be kind.

“Small Business Saturday and the holiday season is critical for Main Street, but there is a real need this year for kindness, appreciation, and patience,” said Tom Sullivan, Vice President for Small Business Policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 

“Businesses have been facing worker shortages and supply chain challenges for months. Having grace and understanding for the employees at your favorite local restaurant or corner store will ensure a smooth and successful holiday season for shoppers and workers.”

About the authors

Lindsay Cates

Lindsay Cates

Lindsay is a manager on the communications and strategy team. She previously worked as a writer and editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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