There is something special about shopping at a small business. Picture this: You walk into a locally owned gift shop. The shop is cozy, warm and decorated for the holidays. There is a display of handmade goods on a table up front made by local artisans. On one wall, there is a framed display with pictures and articles about the local youth hockey team that the shop sponsors. The woman behind the counter offers you a warm smile and a friendly hello. She introduces herself, she is the owner. She talks to you for a minute and helps you pick out a unique gift for your mother, who is visiting from out of town. As you leave with your purchase in a paper bag with the shop’s logo on the front, she reminds you to, “Come again, soon!” You leave the shop knowing that not only do you have an interesting gift for your mother, but you also have a pleasant story you can tell her about your shopping experience when you tell your mother more about the gift.

While this might not be the experience you have shopping at a major retailer, this experience is pretty common at your locally owned, small retail shops. And this isn’t something that happens just at the holidays, this is a customer focused experience you are likely to have any day when you visit a small business.

On November 24, we celebrated Small Business Saturday, the day each year that we put special emphasis on the contribution our nation’s 30 million small businesses make to our communities. Throughout New England, thousands of locally owned independent stores participated in the ninth annual event.

Total reported spending among U.S. consumers who said they shopped at independent retailers and restaurants on that day reached a record high of an estimated $17.8 billion, according to data released from the 2018 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey from American Express and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).

Although Small Business Saturday is done for the year, it serves as a reminder to shop small not just on one day or during the holiday season, but year round. Shopping small is a concrete way to support small retailers; the same businesses that generate two of every three net new jobs and deliver essential goods and services 365 days a year.

New Englanders are passionate about supporting local businesses and the stores lining its Main Streets. These stores are owned and operated by our friends and neighbors. The owners sponsor local youth sports teams and donate their goods to the neighborhood toy drive. Supporting these local businesses keeps our downtowns energetic and our communities vibrant. Supporting New England small businesses is an investment in the future and prosperity of our region and our local communities.

Wendell G. Davis, New England Regional Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration