While many thousands of Iowans hit the malls on Friday, today’s the day they’re encouraged to shop local as part of Small Business Saturday.

Jayne Armstrong, the Iowa district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration, says today’s the real kickoff to the holiday shopping season for locally-owned stores of all kinds. Armstrong says when our small businesses do well, our communities do well.

“Sometimes you’ve got to go that extra mile to support the local businesses,” Armstrong says. “Think about their importance to the economy and to our local community and if we didn’t have that shop around the corner or down the street, what would our life be like?”

Nationwide last year, an estimated 112-million consumers reported shopping at small businesses on Small Business Saturday, spending an estimated $15-billion.

While it may be easy to point and click, Armstrong says online shopping lacks what “shopping small” can deliver.

“What this small business community brings to the table is customer service,” Armstrong says. “You just can’t compete with that. Small businesses have really personalized that customer service and go the extra mile, partly because the employees are really part of that family.”

Iowa has more than 266,000 small businesses which account for more than 99-percent of all businesses in the state and employ nearly half of the state’s private-sector workforce.

Armstrong says, “So much money and focus has always been on Black Friday but if we can really give back to the small business community and keep the money in our local communities, the impact that we could have on the business community and all of the families that are behind those businesses.”

Surveys show 72-percent of consumers say Small Business Saturday inspires them to “shop small” all year long.