Shop Local For the Holidays

Front Street

Did you know that during the holiday shopping season, the average consumer spends $700 on gifts? That's a lot of Furbies! But where are people spending their hard earned dough? There is a growing trend to go online or to large retailers for holiday shopping. That's really nothing new and it's definitely a convenient way to check off your list, but is it sustainable? That is to ask: Does this trend allow for your community to be sustainable?

Without going into the confusion of TIFs or property assessments, we can say that going local is more likely to help your community. Take a look at this blog post from Back to Basics Keynote Speaker a few years back, Chuck Marohn. He analyzes two blocks on the same street in our hometown of Brainerd, MN. One block is made up of several...less than prosperous businesses while the other block has only a fast food restaurant. He goes into a lot of detail (TIF's and property assessment, mainly, but like I said we shouldn't go into it), but Chuck describes how local businesses can earn more than national chains in similar environments. It's very interesting!

So, how else can we look at sustainable shopping.

Follow the numbers. (It's not boring, I swear!)

Let's pretend you want to buy a Limited Edition Red Whirligig (with kung fu grip) for little Jimmy, and you have two stores to choose from: National Toy Chain (a national toy retail chain) or Momma's Toy Chest (a locally owned business). Now, if you choose to buy Jimmy's toy from National Toy Chain, only 14% of the purchase price will stay in the community. On the other hand, if you buy the toy at Momma's Toy Chest, 68% of it will stay local.

Putting it another way. With your $10 purchase of the Limited Edition Red Whirligig (with kung fu grip), Momma's Toy Chest will reinvest almost $7 back locally, while only $1.4 will stay local from the National Toy Chain. So, that extra $5.4 could be used to help sponsor a local little league team or put braces on a local daughter (from a local dentist!), not to mention the taxes that will be reinvested into schools and roads with that purchase.

A few year's ago, we had a keynote speaker for Back to Basics who extolled the virtue of believing in some place. Not just anyplace. If there is a continued trend towards online shopping and big box retail shopping, that some place will turn into anyplace. Think of it this way. When a friend comes to visit and they ask for the best pizza place in the area, 9 times out of 10 answers will focus on the local pizza joint. (And let's be honest, every town, no matter how small has a pizza joint that makes the best pizza! I mean, even little ol' Pine River has a place that makes good pizza.) Maybe this is based on memories of the place or the atmosphere of the seating area. Regardless the reason, it is some place to you! Look at the big chains. You can find them in lots of communities. And once that happens to a community, it loses its identity. It becomes a place you can find anywhere.

So remember, please. You have a choice when spending your money. Where you choose is important. And, if you really want to make a difference, make it a habit. Think before you spend, year round.

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