#ShopSmall encourages consumers to shop locally

BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Following Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day of the year, especially for big retailers.

But what about the little guys?

Small Business Saturday is a national event aimed at our local commerce.

"So when they're shopping here, they're helping their community," owner of Mainstreet Antiques on Harrison, Liane Harding said.

Harding owns a small local business in downtown Panama City, and after everyone spent their Friday hunting down Black Friday deals, she, like many other small business owners, said the following Saturday is for small businesses.

"Well usually, it's the following after Black Friday. Our locals come out to support us all and its a big success," said The Florida House sales associate, Megan Crowson.

Coined back in 2011 by American Express, Small Business Saturday is aimed at encouraging consumers to shop locally.

"Although shopping online or in the big box stores, you may be able to get some good deals, you're not going to find the personalized service and specialty items that these smaller boutiques and stores have," Harding said.

"So its for our locals to come out here and find something special, in their own unique little style that more of the big, corporate stores don't usually have, that they can't find over there. So there is quite a few different stores around here and each one has something special for everyone around here," Crowson added.

Besides giving local businesses a boost, it also gives back to the community in more ways than one.

"Its an effort to remind people that shopping small really benefits their community," Harding pointed out. "When you spend money in a small business, we pay taxes and those taxes help to pay for your firefighters and paramedics, for police, so its putting money back into your own community versus going to a big box store and it's corporate and it goes somewhere else."

In 2016, over 112 million shoppers participated in small business Saturday, spending a reported $15.4 billion at local businesses around the United States.

So next time you're looking to check off some items from your Christmas list, Harding says, "come on out and visit."