As the holiday shopping season intensifies, you’re likely to be flooded with ads from major retailers like Walmart, Target and Best Buy. You’re sure to find an outlet of one of these national chains, which top the country’s list of highest-grossing retailers, in a prominent place at a nearby shopping center.
But visibility isn’t the only consideration when you’re deciding where to find the best gifts this holiday season. Locally owned, independent businesses can offer value you’re not likely to find at the nearest chain store.
Here are five reasons to consider shopping indie this season:
1. Your Money Stays Closer to Home
When you shop at a locally owned business, your money is more likely to stay in the community. Purchasing from nationally owned businesses sends much of the proceeds to often distant corporate headquarters. Supporting local businesses multiplies the money that remains close to home.
According to a study by Civic Economics, a firm that examines independent retail trends, an average of 48% of each purchase at an independently owned store recirculates in the community, compared with less than 14% of a purchase made at a chain store.
Unlike national chains, locally owned businesses aren’t restricted to purchasing from national suppliers. They’re more likely to invest in other independently owned businesses, support local banks, run ads in community publications and purchase local services, such as bookkeeping, delivery and printing.
By shopping local, you can assure that more of your taxes are reinvested in the community, supporting schools, fire departments and other services. According to a study of land use in Barnstable, Mass., specialty retail stores – generally small businesses close to residential areas – are among those establishments that generate the most revenue for local governments. The study found that these businesses brought the municipality a net annual return of $326 per 1,000 square feet of floor space. Big-box retailers, on the other hand, incurred high infrastructure and maintenance costs at the expense of the local government. Rather than bringing in net revenue, these larger businesses in fact cost taxpayers $468 per 1,000 square feet of store space per year, the study found.
By choosing to do gift shopping in local shops, you’ll also contribute to increasing the job opportunities in the area. Thriving local businesses create more – and better – jobs for residents. Independently owned businesses pay their employees higher wages than those at big-box retailers, according to recent studies.
Finally, a healthy local economy will drive up property values, as potential homeowners are drawn to areas with growing economies, vibrant shopping streets and strong community support.
2. You’ll Honor What’s Special About Your Town
With a Starbucks on every corner, a sign for Target glimmering in the distance and a Home Depot within a short drive, cities around the country – and the world – are starting to look pretty similar.
Investing in local businesses helps preserve those characteristics that set your community apart, whether it’s the artistic movements characteristic of the area or the unique recipes you’ll find in locally owned bakeries, restaurants and cafes.
Compared with nationwide chains, independent businesses are better able to develop distinctive personalities, tailoring their services to meet local needs.
3. You Can Do More for Charitable Causes
Small businesses give back to charities at a higher rate than larger companies, according to a study by Oregon State University.
The study found that businesses with fewer than 100 employees gave an average of $789 per employee in cash and in-kind donations, compared with the $334 per employee donated by companies with more than 500 employees.
4. You’ll Find Unique Gifts
When you’re looking for creative, personalized gifts, you’ll find independent businesses an important stop in your shopping search. Whether it’s the toy store down the block or the quirky shoe shop around the corner, small, independent stores are more likely to offer a broader selection of one-of-a-kind items than you’ll find at Sears or Costco.
You can find handcrafted earrings, vintage fashion and staff-picked titles in literature and music. This way, you may be more likely to find meaningful, individualized gifts for your friends and family.
5. It’s the Greener Option
With globalization a major source of pollution, it pays to stay small. Shopping locally helps reduce packaging and transportation costs, lessening the impact on the planet.
Independently owned stores are generally smaller than their big-box cousins. Since smaller stores are typically closer to residential areas, you can walk or bike instead of filling up the tank for a drive. The larger a store, the wider the area it services, requiring consumers to drive a longer distance to reach it. For this reason, large chains and shopping centers have a greater impact on sprawl, congestion, pollution and habitat destruction.
Even the products you’ll find will probably have a smaller carbon footprint. Independently owned stores are more likely to feature items that originate in the community, such as handmade greeting cards, jewelry and clothing by local artists, and foods grown and processed in the area.
Written by Melinda Szell
Small shop image via Shutterstock