Saturday November 26th is Small Business Saturday. It's no mistake that it's sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the celebrations of the giant companies with their crazy sales and mind blowing advertising. It's a moment to stop and think about why small businesses matter. I myself have enjoyed the presence of things like farmers markets at the end of my street because I know that when I buy fresh brussell sprouts, that they came from a sustainable farm that I could probably walk to. Okay, I just lied right there, I never buy brussell sprouts, they're gross, but I am a sucker for fresh strawberries. It's pretty easy to see the benefits you get on your health and the environment from buying from your local farmer, but what does it mean when you "shop small" from the derby community? Thanks for asking! Here are a few impacts you might not be aware of.
The ability to walk into a shop, try on skates and understand how skates can fit you differently is maybe something you only appreciate when you don't have that option. When I started to skate, there were a few shops across the US border a 4 hour drive away so trying stuff on was not an option. I personally went through 2 pairs of skates before I realized that I was 1.5 sizes smaller than what I'd guessed was right for me.
When you shop at your local derby store, you're basically saying "having you here so that I can see, touch and smell things is important to me". But it's also saying "I want you to be here tomorrow and for years to come for me and for the future skaters that we plan on recruiting to grow our league and the sport". I'm not saying that it's not convenient to order from a big company online that sells everything for very little, but it does mean that when the time comes to get something you want to buy in person, that might not be an option.
Having a local store can have a huge impact. At Neon, our definition of "local" is a little broad too. Not every market can support a full store and because our mission is to serve all of Eastern Canada with the Jambulance we bring the "local store" door to door. We do what we can to bring all of those benefits on the road with us to as many leagues as possible to help the sport grow everywhere. The Jambulance exists because our customers have told us those benefits are real and worth supporting to them.
You'd be surprised how many people walk into a roller skate shop and say "wait, this is a thing? No but really?". After that twinge of feeling slightly insulted passes, it's always followed by a very lively discussion about how YES absolutely roller skating and roller derby are alive and well and that they too can find out more about games, playing, reffing etc. Being in Ottawa, we are huge for tourists, so not only do we spread the word about our own leagues, we also point them to where they can find their closest leagues and skate communities back home. It's also not only limited to customers, small businesses have a network of their own, people who support each other to be successful, so when your league is on one small business' radar, you can bet that means your visible to that network. Sponsorship, support, tons of opportunities come from this type of visibility. Essentially you get a ton of free advertising and a massive cheerleader when you support a business that doesn't just care about its own success, but yours too!
Paying it forward
When lots of people decide they will support their skate shop, and it becomes too much for one person to handle, they need help! Yes, that means providing employment for other people that love what you do. This means your buddies can both clothe and feed themselves, but also pay dues which go back into your league. It also means that more people in the community gain the expertise and knowledge to support the players around them. Next time your truck breaks during a game, you might just have someone there who can fix it.
Oh, and you know what else? Those brands that we keep stocked in the store? A lot of those are small derby businesses too that we felt made great products understood your needs and were worth supporting. And best of all, they actually listen to your feedback. When was the last time you had such a direct impact on product development? Helping them grow means supporting their employees, which helps us promote the growth of this sport. Yup, this is getting repetitive because in the end, it's all a beautiful circle!
There's a lot of information out there, and it's pretty hard to cut through the hype and bogus reviews. Your local skate shop does this for a living so knowing products, understanding the science behind all of the pretty ad campaigns, that's our job. Foot shapes, materials, sizing, that's what we do, so when you support a small shop with a human being you can talk to, you're basically paying someone to do all that research for you. We've literally traveled across the continent to source new products and to understand what's coming. Derby isn't just one brand anymore, the competition for your business is getting pretty fierce and so helping you to distinguish between what each one has to offer is a service that can save you a lot of time and money. Investing in the wrong setup is so frustrating and expensive. Having a 10 minute conversations about it is free!
And what about troubleshooting? Some of our happiest customers have been those that walk in with a problem expecting to drop hundreds on a new plate or boot only to find out that what's ailing them just requires a quick adjustment. Yes, that happens, because there is a person who understands the struggle and asks the right questions to figure it out. Believe it or not, there are questions that Google cannot answer. We don't always know everything but you can bet we'll seek out the answers so that we can give you our best advice.
Those are only a few of the benefits, there are many more that help this really cool community that we've built thrive. In the end, people will shop where they feel they get equal value for what they spend. If you believe in the value of small businesses, the best thing you can do for a small business is to vote with your dollars and you might be surprised by the massive impact your support can have. If you don't happen to have any dollars to spend this Saturday, maybe take a moment to give a shout out to a small business that's gone the extra mile for you.