Sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday is "Shop Small" Saturday, which makes the Thanksgiving weekend the nation’s largest retail sales period of the year.

Born of the 2008 Great Recession, Small Business Saturday, or “Shop Small” Saturday, was the brainchild of financial giant American Express to give independently-owned, local retail businesses a helping hand — a way to compete with their “big box” neighbors and online mega-retailers. It also has helped boost local economies across the nation, including here in Kern County.

Each year since the event’s creation in 2010, Small Business Saturday has marked spectacular increases in sales and helped introduce consumers to the unique, locally-owned stores in their communities.

Last year, U.S. consumers spent an estimated $17.8 billion at independent retailers and restaurants on Small Business Saturday, an overall growth of about $103 billion since the campaign’s inception.

The National Retail Federation predicts retail sales during this year’s November and December holiday season will increase between 3.8 percent and 4.2 percent over 2018, with local small businesses sharing in the increase.

Local, independently-owned Bakersfield stores are preparing to offer bargains, unique gifts and unsurpassed customer service on Small Business Saturday this Saturday.

If you have favorite local businesses, or ones you have not yet tried, Small Business Saturday is the day to pay those businesses a visit.

Shop owners look forward to the event as a way of introducing themselves to new customers and renewing friendships with returning ones.

People may shiver in the cold waiting for the big box stores to open their doors on Thanksgiving night or early on Black Friday to reveal their “doorbuster deals” and surprise discounts, but when those same customers and others return to local businesses the next day for Small Business Saturday, their interest often is more focus.

They are searching for good prices – which they find – and they also often are searching for something uniquely Bakersfield. These shoppers generally know what they are looking for and they bring along lists to help them find it.

Retailers and customers report that often these Small Business Saturday shopping trips turn a casual interest in a store into a long-term loyalty. According to a nationwide customer survey, 96 percent of people who reported shopping on Small Business Saturday last year said the day made them want to “shop small” all year long.

The success of local, independently-owned retail businesses is important to both the civic fiber of a community and its economic vitality.

Economists estimate that out of every $100 spent in a local store, $68 stays in the local economy. It’s called a multiplier effect, which includes direct spending, or what a business spends on its basic operation; indirect spending, or the circulation of dollars through other local businesses; and induced spending, or the additional consumer spending that happens as employees, business owners and others spend their income in the local economy.

And it is the local independent retailer who gives back to the community in ways chain stores and online website retailers don’t. They sponsor Little League teams, provide door prizes for charity fundraising events and support local causes so many ways.

As Small Business Saturday nears, Bakersfield residents are urged to include local, independent retailers in their holiday shopping plans. The decision will be rewarding, appreciated and benefit the entire community.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there are about 30 million small businesses in America that are employing nearly half of all U.S. workers. These small businesses led the way in bringing the nation’s economy out of the Great Recession of 2008. They created 8.3 million jobs through 2017, compared to the 5.1 million jobs created by big businesses during the same period.

At Cal State Bakersfield, experienced consultants at the Small Business Development Center are helping local entrepreneurs develop the business plans and marketing strategies needed to succeed.

One of five service centers within the University of California, Central California SBDC Regional Network, the SBDC in Bakersfield is a partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration. The center assists small business owners in Kern, Inyo and Mono counties by providing free consulting, small business training and research. For more information, go to csub.edu/sbdc

Kelly Bearden is the director of the Small Business Development Center at Cal State Bakersfield.