On Black Friday, the few retail stores in Siloam Springs explode with Christmas shoppers looking for the best deals. Thanksgiving weekend is terryifying for retail industry employees. Walmart repurposes holiday hires as traffic directors. Lines stretch and curve around electronics stores such as GameStop.
What may be trouble for the workers, however, is health for the company and its community. Although Black Friday may initially seem to work against the smaller retail businesses in a community, business planning organizations such as Main Street and the Chamber of Commerce work diligently to ensure the town’s economic health.
Kelsey Howard, executive director of Main Street Siloam Springs, never stops working to preserve the historic downtown Siloam area. She works closely with the small businesses that line Broadway and beyond, including Ash & Ember, Pure Joy, and Pour Jons. For Howard, helping these businesses is a yearlong task: “We don’t wait until Christmas time to give credit to our downtown businesses and to put a spotlight on the uniqueness of what they do and who they are.”
“We promote them and celebrate them and work alongside them all year long. I think that partnership is a strength. They have a consistent clientele all year round.” Howard said.
While few stores can stand against larger corporate franchises like Walmart when it comes to inventory, smaller businesses such as those in downtown Siloam sell consistent, locally-made products that support recognizable entrepreneurs and their families. “They have built relationships with the business owners, and they know that when they shop local, they are contributing to the livelihoods of these people they’ve come to know and that they’re contributing to the existence of these really unique shops,” Howard said.
This is not to say these small businesses on Broadway have a direct adversarial relationship with the businesses on highway 412. There is, instead, a sort of symbiotic cooperation between the businesses, and one that must be managed carefully. Wayne Mays, CEO of the Siloam Springs Chamber of Commerce, said that the primary issue was one of balance.
“They’re all our members, and the large businesses as well as the small are looking to plug a retail leakage,” Mays said, referring to money spent in other communities. Mays said that the leakage is coming from the more diverse options in the larger Northwest Arkansas area including Fayetteville, Rogers, Springdale and Bentonville. Mays and Nathan Reed, director of economic development for the Siloam Springs Chamber of Commerce, referred to this area as “The Corridor.”
Big businesses often do not suffer as much from smaller specialty businesses, but retail leakage affects all members of the business community. Neither Black Friday nor the holiday season diminish net retail revenue for most small businesses. People look locally for local products, and to larger stores to meet needs small businesses cannot fill. Both large businesses and small ones are a part of a community and are dedicated to seeing that community thrive.