The campaign to "shop small" on the Saturday after Thanksgiving started in 2010 as an effort to give small businesses--many struggling to get out of the red after a long recession--a much needed shot in the arm. Since then, it has become a powerful movement to give back to the brick-and-mortar establishments that line our Main Streets and keep our communities vibrant.

Unlike Black Friday, a day that perpetuates painfully early wake up calls, snarled traffic, battling for parking spots and getting jostled by crowds, Small Business Saturday encourages the patronage of local businesses that support their local communities.

The concept is simple: Instead of "one-stop-shopping" at the nearest "big-box" store, you shop at small, locally-owned businesses for things you simply can't find at the mall, and instead of dealing with temporary workers who don't know the merchandise, there's a good chance you'll be dealing with the owner - who cares very much about making you happy so you'll come back again throughout the year.

Small Business Saturday has one thing in common with Black Friday: deals and discounts. Shoppers have given Small Business Saturday their vote of confidence by spending $5.7 billion at locally-owned shops and restaurants last year according to a survey conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and American Express. Last year's spending marked a 3.6 percent increase over 2012's event.

It's really that simple - when you shop local and shop small, you're supporting your friends and neighbors. You're supporting your community, keeping most of that money right on Main Street.

So, this holiday season, make a difference in your community - shop local on Small Business Saturday.

Shawn Shouldice lives in Montpelier and serves as the state director of NFIB's VT Chapter.

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