The holiday season is in full swing. It's a time of joy, reflection, hope, and shopping - lots and lots of shopping. Everywhere you look, every channel you flip through, is filled with catchy holiday advertisements from the chain stores, promising the biggest and best sales of the season. And in recent years, they've seemed to capitalize on the ease and popularity of online shopping for those looking to check off every gift on their Christmas lists, fast.
While there's no arguing that online shopping can be convenient, what "warm and fuzzy" feeling do you get from that type of transaction? Does easiness trump the emotional benefits you'd feel from contributing to someone's livelihood by shopping local? The ability we all have to support our community's brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins, neighbors, friends — all the people who make our community a wonderful place to live — will always be worth the collective time and effort in our book. And here's why.
Shopping local helps grow your community's economy.
According to the American Independent Business Alliance (AIBA), when you shop local, approximately 48% of the cost of your purchase is recirculated back into the local economy. When you shop at a chain store, that number drops to only 14%. Instead of taking your hard-earned dollars to a billion-dollar chain store, think about how beneficial it would be to invest them in your local economy and help support a small business owner's family. We can all agree that every dollar helps, especially around Christmas time.
Shopping local boosts job growth in your community.
Let's face it - small business is, quite frankly, big business. According to a study by Michigan State University, small local businesses are the largest employers nationally, creating two out of every three new jobs, and employ 52 percent of the nation's employees. Since 2003, small businesses have added 5.1 million new jobs to the economy. So when you shop local, you create job stability for current working citizens in your community, as well as opening the door for more local hiring opportunities. And what better way to celebrate Christmas and the coming new year than with a reliable job that's close to home?
Shopping local gives your community's artists and vendors exposure.
Small communities are often full of incredibly talented artists who can't afford shop space until their business takes off, leading them to partner with local businesses to sell their products at a storefront. So when you shop local, you give those craftspeople the exposure and funding they need to grow their business. Picture giving your mom the gift of a handmade wreath, piece of jewelry, or painting she's always talked about this Christmas. She'll feel extra special knowing you got her something personalized that just can't be found anywhere else!
Shopping local means healthier and more tasty food options.
Did you know that fruits and vegetables contain the most nutrition when they are ripe? According to Greenopedia, a healthy food blog, shortly after being picked, fruits and veggies' sugars begin to convert to starch, cells begin to shrink, and overall nutrients begin to diminish. This means that by the time they travel across the country to your table, they're depleted of the key nutrients they once had if bought at peak freshness from a local farmers market or supermarket. When you shop and eat locally, you're getting a healthier and tastier version of the same product found at a chain store. Believe your belly will thank you at Christmas dinner when you're feasting on fresh, roasted vegetables you bought from the farm up the road.
Shopping local means you get personalized service and products.
Good customer service can be hard to find at the big chain stores during the holidays due to retail employees often being stretched too thin in their work schedules. Some of the biggest perks of shopping local are the personalized customer service and the unique, hand-crafted items you come across. Small business owners don't build their own business from scratch just for kicks - they do it because they are passionate about keeping their products and services exclusive to their community. Many times, small business owners are able to craft and personalize a product just for you - a service that really comes in handy around the holiday season when you're searching for one-of-a-kind gifts for the special people in your life (cue mom's face when she sees her handmade wreath).
Shopping local shows appreciation for area farmers and the environment.
Local farmer's markets are found to have a positive effect on total agricultural sales across the country, according to EcoWatch, an environmental news outlet. Plus, the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA) advises that because food in the U.S. travels an average of 1,500 miles to get to your plate (requiring the use of large amounts of fossil fuels which causes air pollution and trash buildup from extra packaging) it's actually more environmentally friendly to shop for your food locally. So every time you support your local farmers market or grocer, the farmers will thank you. An added bonus is being able to personally thank the farmer who grew your food, and isn't expressing gratitude what the holidays are all about?
Shopping local means giving back to charities in your community.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) conducted a survey last year and found that 75 percent of small business owners donate some portion of their profits — about six percent on average — to charitable organizations each year. Many times, those charities are found right in your community. So every time you shop local, a portion of your dollars may also be donated to a local charity, especially helpful during back-to-school time and the holidays.
Shopping local delivers the best customer service.
When you buy local, you experience the perk of seeing your salesperson face-to-face, to help you with future orders or to customize an order you've already placed with them. With many chain stores, you won't get that level of personalized, tailored-to-you service. You may be directed to an online portal or phone recording, warning you that hold times are "longer than usual," which is enough to make you want to throw your phone at the wall, and you don't need that kind of stress during the holidays. In addition, many local business owners have personal connections between each other, allowing them to deliver you exclusive deals and recommendations for other needs you may have. And who doesn't love a good deal around the holidays?
Put your money where your home is.
If all of these (awesome) points weren't enough to convince you to shop local not only during the holiday season but year 'round, consider this: Put your money where your home is. Whatever you consider to be "home" - a cozy one bedroom apartment, mom and dad's guesthouse, or the place you spent years saving up for and finally own - put your money there. You live in a community full of hidden gems that need your support. Help grow your community by shopping local and give the hard-working small business owners in your town the opportunity to thrive.
Sources: American Independent Business Alliance,Michigan State University: Center for Community & Economic Development,Greenopedia,EcoWatch, Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Food, U.S.,Small Business Administration