If you are aiming big this holiday shopping season, your local shopkeepers, who also happen to be your neighbors, ask only this of you – please, start small.
Small businesses make up our local economy – the restaurants, specialty shops, markets, galleries, and boutiques – and the folks who own them are the faces of these small towns of ours that most visitors to this area become familiar with first. They are the faces you won’t find at the mall, the faces you won’t see while online shopping on the Internet.
Here we are, now at the cusp of the holiday shopping rush, and by the end of the day on Black Friday and Cyber Monday we will officially be in the throes of the busiest and most important period for business owners.
But what does that look like on the local level?
When you choose to do your holiday shopping in the local stores that line the quaint streets of Tri-Town, you’re doing more than spending money – you’re seeing neighbors, interacting with the people of the community – the ones whose kids go to school with yours, the ones you attend church with, the ones whose businesses make our towns truly unique.
Not so much when you hit the big box stores or the mall or add items to the virtual “cart” on your computer screen.
If you spend your money on gifts this year in local stores, you will personally contribute to the prosperity of your community, while buying your gifts at big box or online stores (although more convenient and perhaps a bit less expensive) translates into a simple transfer of cash from your wallet to some far away retailer.
Essentially, when you give a gift from a local shop, you really are giving two gifts at the same time – one to the recipient and one to the local families of your local businesses.
Studies find that local businesses recirculate a greater share of every dollar back into the communities in which they serve.
Money that is spent locally is re-spent locally.
According to the Michigan State University Center for Community and Economic Development, for every $100 spent locally, $73 stays in the local economy – local taxes, wages, social investments in the community, donations, supplies purchased by other local businesses. When that same $100 is spent at a non-locally owned company, only about $43 stays in the community, with $57 leaving the local economy.
Local shops invest in their communities through charitable donations (and if you have ever attended any one of the major community events in Tri-Town, that is abundantly clear), much more than the physical, big box stores or the online ones.
According to the Institute for Self-Reliance, locally owned businesses nationwide donated roughly $4,000 per $1 million in sales, while a mega-business like Wal-Mart donated just $1,000 per $1 million in sales.
This weekend, nestled between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, is the more socially conscious alternative day of thoughtful spending – Small Business Saturday. The spirit of Small Business Saturday is simple – connect with your community, contribute to the local economy, pick out meaningful gifts and actually touch them, see them with your own eyes, and maybe have them gift-wrapped.
It’s also about sharing in the experience of walking into one of the community’s one-of-a-kind shops – the scents, the twinkling lights, the cozy, eclectic, or holiday style atmosphere that someone curated and created especially for you to enjoy.
Local Mattapoisett business owner Louise Rogers says that is precisely what she and her gallery associates strive to offer– a unique environment to shop for special, hand-picked gifts while experiencing the joy of the holiday season.
Shopping local is personalized, says Rogers. So much thought is put into giving the shopper an experience that makes them feel connected to the community, a part of something.
“We always try to remind people that we’re here,” said Rogers. “People tend to start out at the malls, and then they end up here and then they say, ‘I should have started here, you have everything that I needed.’”
“It maintains the fabric of the town,” said local sales associate Carole Rogers. And when buying a gift for someone that is truly special, one needs to see it, touch it, connect with it in a way that one cannot while staring at a computer screen.
Louise Rogers has been doing the local business thing for 40 years now – providing the kind of service and items that the big box stores can’t. Remember to shop locally this year, she says. “Because all our local stores need it.”
“You need us, and we need you,” said Rogers. It’s a classic example of a happy symbiosis.
And don’t forget, it’s the local businesses that advertise in your community weekly newspaper The Wanderer. They are the local sponsors of the local news you receive every week. It’s safe to say, without our local businesses there would be no local newspaper.
Commit this year to buying at least one gift at a local shop. Thumb through The Wanderer at the many unique, locally owned businesses. Tell them you saw their ad in The Wanderer, and give this holiday season by giving back to your local townspeople who help make this area as unique as it is.
By Jean Perry