Nestled between Black Friday and Cyber Monday is a relatively new named shopping day – Small Business Saturday. This Shop Small day was originally an American Express promotional idea that has taken on an identity of its own. The basic idea and thrust behind this can be summed up in another oft heard phrase – Shop local or there won’t be any local.
The danger to small local businesses has never been greater. The small retail shops that make up the Main Street stores of America are under tremendous pressure from both the big box stores and from the Internet. There is just no way for your local toy store or clothing store or shoe store to compete on price with the big box stores. Instead many emphasize that they have products that you just won’t find in the big box stores or they may have more selections of specific brands. They also provide much more personalized service and in most cases are closer and easier to get to than the big mall stores.
Milford has one of the few remaining small town downtown areas that is still full of useful stores – stores that sell things other than knick-knacks or antiques. One can still shop in Milford for clothing and shoes, in addition to toys and jewelry and candy and furniture and more. Sure, we have some nice knick-knack stores, too; but the point is that the downtown still provides a good, diverse shopping experience. The same cannot be said of many of the small towns on this side of Michigan.
The big box stores most often came in and positioned themselves just outside of the towns and villages, most of the time between two or three. Once they took hold, local downtown areas withered and many gave way to the trend to turn the quaint old downtown buildings into antique stores or knick-knack boutiques. Milford was far enough away from the I-96 highway that the big box stores chose to congregate around to avoid some of that impact, but they still had and have an impact.
I think that the attractiveness of many of our restaurants also helps. When you have 2-3 destination restaurants (restaurants that people will drive for more than 5 miles to get to, because they are so good) it helps draw people to the downtown. They walk up and down the street, sometimes visiting the shops and sometimes just making note of shops that they want to come back and visit. It helps.
So this Saturday, Nov 30, after the Christmas parade at 10 AM, plan on staying in Milford for some shopping. Many of the merchants will have special sales going for Small Business Saturday. Plan on coming back on December 5th when the local merchants will host a Christmas Open House, with strolling entertainment and refreshments provides by the stores. Bring the kids, because Santa will be here too. Get in the spirit of Christmas in small town America – It’s a wonderful life!