Shop Local 2020

Did you see it? While we were paying attention to a pandemic, wildfire smoke, and storms the 25th showed up – and will naturally pass by. There it goes. September 25th. October 25th. November 25th. December 25th. In these three months a lot of shopping happens. Normally. This is 2020. No one knows what normal is. One thing that remains the same though is Shop Local. It’s how small towns survive.

The idea is simple, but easy to overlook. There are plenty of memes about it, but the essence is that by working with local companies, entrepreneurs, artists, and business folk in general money spent locally stays local.

Buy brand name merchandise from a brand name store and watch a lot of that money go to the brand name companies – that are very probably based thousands of miles away, maybe even on a different continent. But you really don’t get to watch that money because it is gone. About 57% of what you spent goes…somewhere else. Some stays in the area, paying bills and wages, but most departs. International corporations are built on that model.

Buy local merchandise from a local business and watch the majority of that money stay so close that you really can see its effects. Start with the smile from someone who may have made that product. There’s good reason for pride. If they get to keep more of the money, they’re also more likely to contribute back to the community with better jobs, more business for other local businesses, and a sense of identity. There’s less need to ship things across oceans, less packaging, and a real connection. You may shop in one store, then next week meet that shopowner when you’re both customers in another store. Say hi, because you’re that much closer to making a friend.

Shop local and instead of 57% of the money leaving, 73% stays. That 73% goes to someone with a name, not an abstract legal entity. There’s holiday spirit.

from The Quarterly Friend Review

It may be dull, but that also means more money for local taxes, local investment, and local philanthropy and charity. And those last two are well-suited for gift-giving. You buy a gift, and a series of other gifts cascade through the community.

Locals can care more. Local people running local shops can’t be anonymous. They know that if they don’t provide a good product or service that the word will get around, even without a need to post a review online. Besides, they’re likely to know many of their customers. Why treat friends poorly, as if they are a ‘market’ instead of a person? That’s a bad business model.

The pandemic created a dilemma. What better way to emphasize shopping local than to restrict non-essential travel? Ironically, many people switched to online shopping because of the pandemic. But businesses are re-opening and are in more need of funds to cover months of struggling to keep their businesses alive. They didn’t get billion dollar bailouts, and may not have ever made it through the bureaucratic process of asking for funds. Corporations can afford lawyers and accountants. Artists and entrepreneurs have to concentrate on more than just paperwork.

Thanks to the diversity across all of Whidbey Island, there’s plenty to choose from. The traffic is lighter. There’s no need to battle the bottlenecks of the bridge or the ferries. Parking is much easier than maneuvering through a mall’s lot. Let’s hope there’s enough opportunity for farmer’s markets and art shows.

Don’t worry about trying to make it a 100% experience. The big stores still have their place. Someone has to sell us those AA batteries.

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