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The Thanksgiving holiday is upon us, with visions of turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie dancing in our heads as we ready ourselves for the Macy’s parade and rivalry football games. And these days, we have to add “shopping” to that list.

Traditionalists may lament the change, but Thanksgiving is increasingly associated with holiday gift shopping. More than 165 million people say they are likely to shop this upcoming four-day weekend. Black Friday has long been an unofficial kickoff for holiday shopping. Technological advances have brought us Cyber Monday, and now even Thanksgiving Day is an opportunity to hit the malls.

All that is nice, but I’m here to talk about Small Business Saturday (SBS). In case you don’t know, Small Business Saturday is next weekend, Nov. 30. Started by the American Express credit-card company 10 years ago, it’s a full-on marketing push to shop local for your holiday gifts.

So let’s take some time this weekend to be thankful for the small businesses that play such a big role in our economy and employment.

Here in New Jersey, ChamberLink partner the Southern Ocean Chamber of Commerce kicked off its “Shop Small” initiative for the Long Beach Island region on Nov. 13 with an event called “Innovate and Caffeinate.”  “The experience of shopping takes on a new meaning when supporting our community directly!” its website says. In addition to the coffee, small businesses were able to share what their plans were for SBS and take back some of the “Shop Small” swag as well as customer service tips that are trending this year.

Nice going, Southern Ocean!

At NJBIA, most of our member companies are small businesses—as is the membership of most of our ChamberLink partners—so we are very aware of the challenges small businesses face. Global competition and ever increasing government regulations keep making it harder for small businesses of all types, and online shopping has made it even that much tougher for those in retail. And yet, small businesses still make up well over 90% of all the businesses in the country.

Thanksgiving weekend offers an opportunity for all of us as consumers to support small businesses in the most tangible way possible—going to their shops and stores and restaurants and buying something.

Our time-compressed modern lifestyles make shopping local a lot harder than it should be. Swinging by the mall or popping into a big-box store chain while we’re out running errands is often just too convenient to pass up. I’m as guilty of it as anyone else. But the extra time we have over the Thanksgiving weekend should give us a great opportunity to spend some quality time downtown with small businesses that deserve our patronage.

Happy shopping all.

Meanwhile, there are some nice networking events next week, despite the shortened workweek. For those who are not aware, members of NJBIA can attend our ChamberLink partners’ events at the member price, and members of our partner Chambers of Commerce get member pricing for NJBIA events.