Think local this year, for all of our sakes


Starbucks cups aside, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas already.

Stores are beginning to stock up decorations and gift ideas, retailers are already warning that some of the hotter toys are in short supply this year and I woke up in the middle of the night to the feint sounds of crying coming from my wallet on the nightstand. For a holiday that didn’t used to get much traction until the day after Thanksgiving, it certainly appears as if we’ve flipped the proverbial switch from the ghosts and goblins of Halloween to the elves and gift receipts of Christmas.

Is it all too soon? Sure it is. The Christmas season has evolved into a marathon of sorts, involving more complicated planning, preparation and shopping. What was once four weeks of stress has now become two to four months of a heart-pumping adrenaline rush, forcing many of us to juggle parties, buying ugly sweaters and shopping to go along with the typical realities of life that cause us to go bonkers on a daily basis.

However...

I get it. The retail industry has identified this as the season of all seasons, and the stakes are very high, especially when you consider the impact on the stock market, consumer spending and dividends. People are often hired and fired in the big-time world of retail based on their end-of-year numbers, and, let’s face it, those numbers can determine how many people have jobs or health insurance the following year. It’s important.

Of course, the numbers and prognostications we see on the evening news and read in the trade publications typically revolve around the national and global businesses. Those companies are often publicly traded, and are required to share their numbers, so they are easier to track. The sheer volume of dollars that go in and out of those stores, and the vast amount of people they employ, also makes it of national importance, as retail numbers are considered by many analysts as vital information in understanding the current state of our economy.

I should have said, “our national economy.”

You see, I’m a big believer of taking care of home before anything else. On the national level, I am a subscriber to the theory that we should take care of our veterans and ensure that people aren’t dying from hunger in our streets before we spend money elsewhere. Locally, I believe you take care of your community, and your community will help take care of you.

And, just to put a cherry on top of that idea, I believe the priority we should all focus on first is our respective local communities. It’s kind of a “trickle-up” theory, if you will, in that if everybody around the country put a little more dedication into shopping at locally-owned businesses, our national economy will grow stronger as a group because the individuals holding it up are stronger, as well.

According to the Andersonville Study of Retail Economics, as cited in an article by the Huffington Post, local business generates 70 percent more local economic activity per square foot than big box retail. The article also stated that if every family in the nation spent an extra $10 a month at a locally-owned, independent business instead of a national chain, more than $9.3 billion would be directly returned to our economy. That’s impact.

Yes, it makes sense that buying something from your neighbor’s store will help your neighbor, right? Well, that neighbor will also be spending that money in another neighbor’s restaurant, and that neighbor will be spending that money in another neighbor’s store, and so on and so on. The money often stays local, as opposed to being pushed up the ladder to corporate offices elsewhere, and that improves our community.

Dollars staying local means more opportunities for everybody else. Contractors get more jobs if homeowners have more money. Home values go up, meaning more money going into local governments from transfer fees, and all of a sudden there is more money getting flushed into our first responders and schools. Do you think our local fire halls get more donations when local people have extra money? Is it easier for police departments to justify more people and better equipment if municipalities are seeing more money?

These are pretty easy questions, right?

I’m not calling for any boycott on national businesses, by any means. They employ a lot of people, many of whom live right here, and most of these companies started out by simply being local businesses that got support from their communities. It’s also comforting sometimes when you travel to see a box store or chain restaurant because you know exactly what you’re getting into before you ever walk in the door.

But I’m making a public pledge this year to do all my Christmas shopping at local stores. This is not a grass-roots effort to try to convince everybody to do the same, it’s just something I’m tasking myself with this Christmas. But I am hoping that maybe everybody buys one extra gift at a local shop, or hosts a holiday party at a local restaurant. A charitable donation in your recipient’s name to a local cause can go a long way, and you can physically see the return on your investment in most cases. Look at that big chair outside Justin’s Beach House or the improvements at our local libraries and fire halls for evidence of that.

Think a little more local this year. It will honestly help.