'Buy local' effort part of Black Friday backlash in Utah
For Terry Mitchell, shopping is a political act.
That's why the Sugar House resident plans to shop small and local after Thanksgiving and not hit the big boxes for the bargains they offer. She will not patronize certain other retailers and restaurants, particularly on the so-called Black Friday after Thanksgiving, because she believes businesses need to support a "humane" agenda that extends into which politicians they back and how they treat their workers.
"I boycott companies that don't support humanity, that don't support doing the right thing because I feel all they pay attention to anyway is the bottom line, the dollar," Mitchell said.
Though the hordes will undoubtably be out on Friday chasing highly discounted items, others are promoting a buy-local, buy-from-small-businesses ethos in Utah and nationally.
Danielle Johnson of Sandy said being on the other end of Black Friday will keep her home again this year. Johnson said she once went to work at 4 a.m. on Black Friday at a Walmart in Rexburg, Idaho, after driving back from a family Thanksgiving dinner.
"As soon as the doors opened it just exploded, with people shouting and running in all different directions," Johnson said. "I saw people getting pushed into clothes racks and people going for items that were only in a limited quantity."
The result of that experience is she will stay away this year, Johnson said.
"It's just sad to see that material items are worth so much more to people than being kind to each other as you're trying to get in a store to get something for your family," Johnson said. "I saw an ugly side to people the day after we're being thankful to people for everything we have and it completely turned off that shopping experience."
Maryann Alston, owner of the Wasatch Front Farmers Market and also Urban Farm and Feed, said she promotes local products through farmers markets and now a State Street store because she believes it is better for the local economy.
"It's important to keep our money as close as home as possible for the longevity and sustainability of our local economy," Alston said. "What's neat about it is that it actually provides people a living and you know you are providing your neighbors a living."
Linnaea Mendoza of Sandy sees a number of benefits to buying local food products, from the quality of the foods, to the type of economy that it engenders.
Mendoza and her husband, Sergio, own Salsitas Mendoza, a brand of gourmet salsas they hand-make themselves and sell through local outlets. Next year they are teaming with Mololo Gardens, a local farm in Bountiful to supply their tomatoes.
"If we could all buy from ourselves we could sustain our local economy and we could be recession proof," said Linnaea Mendoza, who added she and her husband now earn a living with their year-old business. "Being able to make and sell all our own products and support each other that way would have an incredibly profound impact."
It might seem a bit incongruous that American Express, a company that reported $30 billion in revenue last year, is promoting a Small Business Saturday to try to drive more shoppers to independently owned businesses.
American Express is providing $25 credit on card statements for people who sign up and spend at least $25 at participating independent businesses that take American Express cards.
Patricia Norins, a retail expert and Small Business Saturday adviser, said the company got involved in promoting the shopping day because of the importance to the national economy of small businesses and to help them become more competitive with big box stores.
"A lot of the independent small businesses are stepping up and through Small Business Saturday this has leveled the playing field with the big-box stores," she said.
In its 2011 annual report, American Express said the marketing of Small Business Saturday was part of the company's effort to maintain the support of small businesses, which sometimes discourage customers from using its credit cards because of the cost.
Norins cited a survey by American Express and the National Federation of Independent Businesses that said 67 percent of Americans were planning to shop at small businesses on Saturday, the same percentage of such operations that planned to offer discounts.
Consumers and businesses can enroll at shopsmall.com by Friday at midnight, although the company said enrollment will be capped if it reaches a certain level.
Local business opportunity
What • Local Business Holiday Gift Expo
When • Nov. 30, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Where • Salt Lake Community College, Larry H. Miller Campus Conference Center, 9750 S. 300 West, Sandy
About • SLCC, in partnership with Local First Utah and Utah's Own, invites local, independently owned businesses to showcase and sell products and services. The event is free to the public.
Vendors • Tables are available for $75 for a 2-by-6-foot table at http://www.mbrcslcc.com/expo. Registration is due Nov. 27 or until tables are sold out.
More information • Melanie Hall at 801-957-5299.