The Christmas season is just ahead, and local businesses and advocates in Hutchinson and Litchfield are making sure there is plenty of reason to remember to shop local.

Small Business Saturday is this weekend, Nov. 27. The Hutchinson Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism is ready to hit the ground running. Back by popular demand is the ping-pong ball drop at 10 a.m. on Washington Avenue. Grab a ping-pong ball and win a prize and enjoy some hot chocolate courtesy of the Hutchinson Jaycees.

Also back is the friendly Chamber elves who are passing out gift cards. They'll travel around Hutchinson to surprise shoppers at local businesses. According to Mary Hodson, Chamber president, there will be more than $3,500 in gift cards at the ball drop and given out around town. 

In case you're wondering where the money comes from for these perks, Hodson said it is money set aside. She also expects the Hutchinson Ambassadors and local businesses will donate as well, raising the total much higher.

Meanwhile, in Litchfield, “Keep the Cheer Here” is this year’s Chamber holiday promotion. It starts Friday, Nov. 26, and runs through Sunday, Dec. 12.

“Litchfield is a small retail town but has something for everyone,” said Judy Hulterstrum, executive director of the Litchfield Area Chamber of Commerce. “Shopping local keeps jobs for people and keeps the dollar circulating locally. Our retail providers in town all have generous hearts to donate back to local charities when the cause arises. If you shop local, you will be giving back to the community.”

According to Hulterstrum, shopping at 30 participating Litchfield businesses will give shoppers a chance to win cash prizes given away on Thursday, Dec. 16.

So what is Small Business Saturday? American Express launched this event in 2010, encouraging people to support small, local businesses. It's a big deal, according to Hodson.

"It’s about reminding people to shop locally and support the businesses that support our community,” she said in an earlier Leader interview.

Hodson also cited the following reasons to shop in the area:

  • It's easy to get support, help and knowledge.
  • There's no finding a mailbox, UPS or FedEx box to return something.
  • Dollars stay local and continue to regenerate.
  • Local businesses support our community organizations and events. If you shop elsewhere or online, those companies usually do not support local organizations.
  • Local dollars pay for amenities and services in our community.
  • You support your friends, family and neighbors who work at local businesses.

It's also important to note that only 14% of the money spent at chain stores stays in the local economy, compared to 48% of money spent at independent businesses.

Shopping at local stores is “the gift that keeps on giving,” says Bill Brunelle, executive director of Independent We Stand, an organization dedicated to educating consumers and businesses about the economic benefits of buying local.

When you purchase something at a locally-owned business, more of your money stays in the community, he said. It’s not going out of town to a big-box corporate office. Store owners based in the community are also more likely to hire local accountants and marketing firms, as well as source more of the products they sell locally.