The din of the holiday season goes from a subtle autumn hum to a thunderous jingle-jangly roar today. The cascade of fliers and magazines filling the mailbox (go ahead and weigh them all after Jan. 1 — you will be amazed) suddenly holds immediate significance.
You have less than one month. You have less than one month.
The Internet has made holiday shopping easy, as did malls and big box stores previously, but your money goes straight into the pockets of sellers everywhere else. According to the National Retail Federation, each adult American will spend approximately $750 on holiday-related shopping this year. That is a lot of money to be sending away. While seasonal shopping supports the economy, the benefits are rarely felt close by, in our downtowns, where we see firsthand the businesses that are struggling or have failed.
Over the last few years, as Americans have become more aware of their addicted consumer behavior, many buyers have been turning their attention to local businesses that, especially in a difficult economy, depend on our support. It is encouraging, appreciated and valuable for viability and sustainability.
Communities like Barre, Montpelier and Rutland kick off the holiday shopping season by scheduling events that draw people to their downtowns and encourage them to mingle, shop and discover new things going on along their Main Streets. (This year, Barre has the bonus of being able to show off its dressed-up new thoroughfare.)
Many communities across Vermont are also taking part in Small Business Saturday, urging local shoppers to “think outside the box (stores)” and keep local bucks circulating locally. Even more extreme boycotts of franchises at least generate awareness of the issue.
“Buying local supports the community in many ways; keeping our downtowns vibrant, creating jobs for people in our community, and stimulating local investment. When people purchase from local independent businesses, a much larger share of that revenue cycles back into the local economy,” said Calen King, Local First Vermont program manager.
Many mom-and-pop shops also provide great support to their communities, whether it is through sponsoring local teams, donating goods and services or lending a hand when needed. The holidays are a great time to reciprocate that support.
Local First Vermont recently pointed to numerous studies that have shown that buying from local businesses keeps a significantly higher portion of money recirculating in the local economy, up to four times more than when dollars are spent at national chains. In Vermont, this could mean up to $350 million in spending. When you buy it is a tremendous opportunity to stimulate the Vermont economy, create jobs and strengthen local businesses and local producers.
Local business owners are mindful of the potential the season offers and the challenges that go with it. As a result they offer gimmicks and deals. Some businesses are even engaging in games with buyers as an enticement. It is creative marketing that deserves our attention and support.
(Local First Vermont is offering a “Buy Local Book” as a buying guide to encourage others to support local merchants. Books are available for sale in Addison, Chittenden, Lamoille and Washington counties. For a full list of book distributors, visit www.localfirstvermont.org.)
The last few years have been the worst economy Americans have faced since the Great Depression. Sociologists and political scientists will tell you that in the decades after the Depression, many steps were taken toward community building and our ability to rely on one another for resources and growth.
We have strayed very far from that mentality and time. The path back to community building starts with our Main Streets first.
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