By Matthew Shay
President and CEO of National Retail Federation
This month marks the 50th annual celebration of National Small Business Week. This year it’s important to make sure we celebrate small retailers for the role they play in strengthening communities, creating jobs and driving economic growth.
Every president since John F. Kennedy, who signed the first proclamation in 1963, has taken part in this tradition—which provides us all with the opportunity to reflect on the important role small businesses play in the economy and in communities across the country.
The small corner store of your youth was more than just a place to purchase goods. It was a place where citizens could gather, check in with fellow residents, and catch up on the latest news. These small business retailers are imbedded in the fabric of our lives.
Unfortunately, retailers are not always thought of as small businesses despite the vital role they play. From a policy perspective, that can have a negative impact on both retailers and the broader small business community as a whole.
We have to remember that of the more than half of Americans that work for or own a small business, many are retailers. It should come as no surprise that small businesses are driving this recovery. Small businesses employ just under half of the private workforce in the U.S. and over the past 20 years have created 60 percent of the new jobs added according to the Small Business Administration.
Small retailers are the backbone of our communities. They revitalize downtown areas by opening stores and adding to the local tax base. They provide employment opportunities to people who may be unable to work for larger corporations. And they offer flexibility in the labor force for those seeking part-time work to pay the bills while their kids are at school.
It’s no wonder small businesses ranked second only to the military in institutions that Americans have the most confidence in, according to the latest Gallup Poll.
Despite what so many have come to believe, the retail sector is dominated by small businesses, not large multinational corporations. According to the last Economic Census from 2007, only 550 retailers have revenue over $250 million while over 477,000 retailers have revenue of $5 million or less.
In fact, if we take even the strictest definition of a small business as defined by the SBA, 94 percent of all retailers generate revenue of just under $5,000,000. Put another way, only 6 percent of all retailers are not small businesses. Furthermore, close to 80 percent of all retail companies have less than 10 employees and almost 60 percent have 4 employees or less.
Let’s remember how important these establishments are to our country. Let’s make sure that government is engaged in policy making that advances the needs of the small business community so they can focus on what they do best: creating jobs, growing the economy and strengthening American communities.