My annual ritual of shopping local
Let’s face it, most people either can’t wait to begin their holiday shopping for loved ones or they just dread the whole spectacle. Put me in the camp of those who has found a way to enjoy it.
Let me explain. I procrastinate and do so willingly, but with a plan.
Over the years, I’ve often been seen traipsing around the shopping districts near my Waynesville home on Christmas Eve or perhaps as early as Dec. 23, credit card in tow, buying gifts for my lovely wife, my wonderful daughters and my favorite son. I’ve become quite adept at not feeling the pressure, not letting the season overwhelm me, and definitely not driving my truck into the big-box parking lots amid the frantic mobs of last-minute shoppers angling for that last parking spot with a crazed look in their eyes. Not me.
In fact, if you want that warm, fuzzy, holiday-as-it’s-supposed-to-feel Norman Rockwell experience, then here’s what I recommend: park your car near some small downtown business district, pull out gloves and a warm hat, zip up your coat, and meander into a half dozen or so of the locally owned stores (whether that’s in Franklin, Sylva, Bryson City, Dillsboro, Canton, Waynesville, Hazelwood Village, or another of our scenic, cool shopping districts, it doesn’t matter).
I’ve lived in Waynesville since 1992, nearly 30 years. That means that during my holiday shopping excursions I run into old friends, my children’s friends who use to hang out at our house years ago, young adults who years ago I coached in soccer, baseball or basketball, people who use to work here with us at The Smoky Mountain News and Smoky Mountain Living magazine, and many other local acquaintances.
You’ll also likely pass a Santa greeting small children, see great decorations, perhaps be given a cider or some other delectable holiday confection by one of those shopkeepers, maybe even run into some carolers or the local high school band ensemble performing on a street corner or on the courthouse lawn. Tis the season.
This kind of holiday gift buying has been much publicized in recent years as “shop local” or “shop small,” and its importance to the local economy can’t be ignored. Those local business owners at my favorite book shop or favorite jewelry store or art gallery keep their money in our communities. They provide monetary support to those youth sports teams I used to coach, along with helping our local schools, churches and nonprofits.
In fact, there’s a better than average chance that the local shopkeeper who you are spending your hard-earned money with also volunteers with or even leads one of those important nonprofits or youth leagues. That’s how it works in small communities, and keeping the money circling back through the place you call home has never been more important. Otherwise, those businesses won’t survive and that sense of place and community that makes Western North Carolina so special will slowly slip away.
Unfortunately, it’s very easy to forego this kind of experience, to just sit at home or at your desk at work and do your shopping. The pandemic, as we know, has led to an explosion of online shopping. By the time the first quarter of 2021 was over, Amazon’s profits were up 220% from the same period last year. Same story for most of the other huge online retailers. Does anyone really get excited about shopping that way? And does Jeff Bezos really need more money?
When I’m on those shopping excursions downtown, I almost always stop in at the local coffee roaster, restaurant, bakery or pub — heck, I’ve been known to stop at all four in a single day. I enjoy exchanging a brief conversation with the servers or owners, wishing each other a happy holiday and engaging in some small talk about each others’ lives.
Making connections, seeing friends, perhaps finding new ones. Buying original and hopefully thoughtful presents at unique and locally owned stores. Walking around on an often-frigid day, relishing in the fact that we in Western North Carolina get a taste of all four seasons, loving this place I call home.
Truth be told, it’s gotten to the point I put off holiday shopping until I have the time to do it in just this way. It’s my ritual, now, one I refuse to give up. Happy shopping.
- Small businesses accounted for 65% of all new jobs over the past 17 years.
- Small businesses employ 77 million Americans.
- 89% of consumers agree that independent businesses contribute positively to local economies.
- Residential neighborhoods served by successful independent business districts gained, on average, 50% more in home values than their citywide markets.
- Independent retailers and restaurants return more than three times as much money per dollar of sales back to their communities than national chains.
- If just half the U.S. employed population spent $50 each month in locally owned independent businesses, it would generate $42.6 billion in revenue.
Sources: U.S. Small Business Administration; Intuit Small Business Innovation Study; U.S. Dept. of Labor.
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Your message resonates Scott!
We all can do our part to shop local, support our communities and give meaningful gifts.