Some reasons make obvious sense and some aren’t so immediately obvious, but here's why it's important (and rewarding!) to shop local this holiday season.
As you get your engine started for holiday shopping (or stay in your pajamas prepped for online bargain hunting), you’re no doubt being inundated with suggestions about where to spend your hard-earned dough. Big box stores are probably sending you mail boldly advertising their amazing post-Thanksgiving pre-Christmas specials. And an internet retailer or two is doing the same thing online, luring you with the siren song of savings.
Not saying you shouldn’t deal hunt — you do you. But small local businesses just now rebounding from the pandemic need some love too and may offer more valuable rewards than just a few extra dollars saved on seasonal deals. (Though they will usually offer those as well! Read on.)
You may already be part of a shop local trend without realizing it. If you get your hair cut at a small business, gather produce and fresh flowers from local shops, or indulge at the occasional community bake sale, you’re shopping local and directly reinvesting in your home base.
Here's why it's important (and rewarding!) to shop local. Some reasons make obvious sense — like financially supporting your neighbors instead of the executives of a faceless national chain — and some aren’t so immediately obvious.
Rewarding reasons to shop local
Of course, buying a latte from your friend’s coffee shop feels good, but how does shopping locally stimulate local economies in a deeper sense?
Contribute to the economic prosperity of your area
Any given local entrepreneur is plugged into a financial network that you might take for granted. That network includes small business owners like your friend with the coffee shop, or your auntie with the Etsy side hustle. But it also includes the community financial institutions that support them. When you choose a local business over a big box store, it’s far more likely that the small business you give your dollars to will bank locally. That means your money stays in the community, rather than getting syphoned off to Big Box Corporate HQ in another time zone.
Some cities in America are taking this concept very seriously. Akron, Ohio introduced a “shop local” app last summer that gave local residents rewards for supporting small businesses in town. It generated half a million dollars in a year, money that stayed in Akron in what one city official described as being a “circular economy.”
Strengthen community ties
Local entrepreneurs and those who support them — from banks and credit unions, to conscientious shoppers like you — are what make a local community distinctive and unique. It’s the financial fabric of community. Shopping at small local businesses during the holidays is sometimes literally an event: check out your favorite small local business on social media and you just might find a holiday event where you can pick up some stocking stuffers and bond with your neighbors.
You can still save money
While huge chain department stores and online retailers leverage their huge scale to deliver savings most mom-and-pop stores can’t compete with, that doesn’t mean small businesses don’t run killer deals. Especially around this time of year! Many local entrepreneurs are participating in Small Business Saturday events around the country, a kind of shop local alternative to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Search for one in your area to still take advantage of seasonal savings while keeping it local.
Why it's important to shop local
Local businesses help a community thrive. Shopping locally, eating locally, and even keeping your money local at community financial institutions is a way to be a productive part of a strong economy at home.
Chain stores aren't very invested in your community, beyond wanting to take your money. That money mostly exits the local economy when it’s given to an international big box chain like Costco or Wal-Mart. And your money definitely leaves your community when you give it to Amazon. At your favorite corner store, farmers' market vendor, or greasy spoon, you’re more than a consumer: you’re a neighbor. Local small businesses and stores are more responsive to the immediate needs of those around them, especially if they offer local-based support. (Few big box stores do!)
Strong local economies are a necessary prerequisite for a strong national one, a major reason why shopping local is so important.
Ways to support local businesses
Local businesses struggle to compete with big businesses even in the best economic times. Here are a few good ways to support local small businesses.
Odds are your favorite local shop or restaurant had to change their operations up significantly since last year and find creative ways to connect with customers. Many restaurants have upped their takeout game and adopted an app-first approach. (If you’re reading this and getting hungry, look up that new restaurant in town your friend told you about on your delivery app of choice. Boom: local small business supported! Like what you had? Take an extra 3 minutes of your day to write a positive review.)
A lot of small businesses have also instituted curbside pickup, rewards programs, and gift card giveaways as pandemic adaptations. Follow your favorite locals on social media and they'll tell you what they’re up to!
Small shops and local vendors are also fighting for your attention (and dollars) during the holiday season. Have you checked out your local farmers market, makers fair, or flea market lately? These days they’re full of upstart entrepreneurs from your local community, many of them trying to make a living and go from online seller to bona fide small business owner. You can find any kind of gift for any kind of occasion from cool local brands — you just need to look around!
(Love the idea, but kind of broke? Check out our article on how to support your local community’s small businesses even if you’re short on cash.)
Shop local... Bank local?
Another way to support local business is to bank locally. This might not seem as obvious, but your local bank or credit union is just as invested in community as your favorite local coffee shop or produce seller. Shop local, eat local... why not bank local?
We at Kasasa® believe strongly in banking locally, which is why we’re trying to make it easier for community-oriented small banks and credit unions to compete with the financial equivalent of the big box retailer: the megabank.
If you want to learn more about our philosophy of sustainable banking, then we have a follow-up ready for you: Guide to sustainable banking: Helping communities thrive.
And if you’re all set to shop local this holiday season, you’ll definitely want to check out our article about using a personal loan for holiday shopping.