Tchotchke vs. Community

Ho, ho, ho! Halloween is over. The Election is over. And no sooner had it been announced that our President would serve a second term, then all the commercial breaks were suddenly sparkling with snowflakes and rosy cheeked models peddling their holiday sales to annoying jingles.

So are you in the “Holiday Spirit” yet? Sure, it’s still November, but retailers know all too well that that means we will all get together on Thanksgiving and feel all good about ourselves only to head out shopping on Black Friday and spend our hard earned dough on holiday gifts for our friends, family (and inevitably ourselves.) Naturally they would have us think there’s no time like the present to start shopping their “unbeatable prices” in hopes that we will stand in line for three hours and then riot over $2 waffle makers like we were ravenous animals fighting each other to the death for the last remaining scrap of food in the trough.

But this holiday season I challenge you to think before you spend and try to do as much of your holiday shopping locally. Sure, you’re not likely to find a $2 waffle maker at a locally owned kitchen shop. But for every $100 you spend at the behemoths, only $43 of that stays locally. Compare that to the $73/$100 that stays in your community when you shop locally. Don’t like potholes in the road? Shop locally. Want to get your softball team sponsored or charity donated to? No box store is going to give you the support that the local stores will. Want to find unique and well made gifts that your friends and family will love? Want to keep your community’s character intact and not become Anywhereville, USA? Then skip the strip, and spend your money at locally owned stores or at some of the many holiday artisan sales (like the Moretown Artisans’ Sale!)

Here are 10 reasons to spend your money locally:

  1. Protect Local Character and Prosperity A growing body of economic research shows that in an increasingly homogenized world, entrepreneurs and skilled workers are more likely to invest and settle in communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character. Vermont has some of the most talented artists creating high quality one-of-a-kind gifts that you can’t find anywhere else. Supporting these artists keeps our state vibrant, strong and sustainable. We live here for the very reason that it’s not like everywhere else in the country. When our local artists and business thrive, so does our state. Where we shop, where we eat and have fun — all of it makes our community home. Our one-of-a-kind businesses are an integral part of the distinctive character of this place. Our tourism businesses also benefit.  “When people go on vacation they generally seek out destinations that offer them the sense of being someplace, not just anyplace.” ~ Richard Moe, President, National Historic Preservation Trust.
  2. Community Well-Being Locally owned businesses build strong neighborhoods by sustaining communities, linking neighbors and by contributing more to local causes. Non-profit organizations receive an average 250% more support from smaller business owners than they do from large businesses.
  3. Local Decision Making Local ownership means that important decisions are made locally by people who live in the community and who will feel the impacts of those decisions.Local businesses are owned by people who live in this community, are less likely to leave and are more invested in the community’s future.
  4. Keeping Dollars in the Local Economy  Several studies have shown that when you buy from an independent, locally owned business, rather than a nationally owned businesses, significantly more of your money is used to make purchases from other local businesses, service providers and farms — continuing to strengthen the economic base of the community. (Click here to see summaries of a variety of economic impact studies; these include case studies showing that locally-owned businesses generate a premium in enhanced economic impact to the community and our tax base.) Your dollars spent in locally-owned businesses have three times the impact on your community as dollars spent at national chains. When shopping locally, you simultaneously create jobs, fund more city services through sales tax, invest in neighborhood improvement and promote community development.
  5. Job and Wages Small local businesses are the largest employer nationally and in our community, provide the most jobs to residents and, in many sectors, provide better wages and benefits than chains do.
  6. Entrepreneurship Entrepreneurship fuels America’s economic innovation and prosperity, and serves as a key means for families to move out of low-wage jobs and into the middle class.
  7. Public Benefits and Costs Local stores in town centers require comparatively little infrastructure and make more efficient use of public services relative to big box stores and strip shopping malls. The sales taxes we pay support our community and county, fixing roads, maintaining recreational facilities and more.
  8. Environmental Sustainability Local stores help to sustain vibrant, compact, walkable town centers-which in turn are essential to reducing sprawl, automobile congestion, habitat loss, and air and water pollution. Locally owned businesses can make more local purchases requiring less transportation and generally set up shop in town or city centers as opposed to developing on the fringe. Local stores are also far more likely to carry locally produced foods which supports local agriculture.
  9. Competition and Product Diversity A marketplace of tens of thousands of small businesses is the best way to ensure innovation and low prices over the long-term. Buy what you want, not what someone wants you to buy! A multitude of small businesses, each selecting products based not on a national sales plan but on their own interests and the needs of their local customers guarantees a much broader range of product choices.
  10. Service Local businesses often hire people with a better understanding of the products they are selling and take more time to get to know customers. By being more locally invested, they are more committed to good, knowledgeable service and tend to have a much better relationship with their customers, inviting customer feedback and responding in a timely and appropriate fashion to their customers concerns.

So there you have it team. Before you rush out to get those bargain priced items in Big Box Store Ville, consider which is more important: a cheap mass produced tchotchke that will end up in the trash within a year or the sustainability of the place you call home?

See you at the Moretown Artisans’ Sale, December 8 & 9, at the Moretown Elementary School!

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