Shop at Local Businesses this Holiday Season

By Shelton Bowman, Reporter

The holidays are in the air. “All I Want For Christmas is You,” is playing in every store, holiday movies are on every channel, and Cleveland is buzzing with excitement as we eagerly await winter break. The holidays are about many things, steaming cups of hot chocolate with marshmallows, oversized sweaters, Christmas carols, and of course family and community. But there’s one aspect of the holidays that’s impossible to get around: gift giving.

Some prefer to create homemade gifts for their friends and family. But if you’re like the majority of Americans, you’ll choose instead to shop for the perfect present. In fact, the average American will spend roughly $800 this December buying gifts for friends and family members. This money can have a tremendously positive impact on your community, if you choose to shop locally. Portland is a unique and vibrant city known for its abundance of local businesses. Shopping at Portland-based shops this holiday season is a simple way to give back to the community.

It’s also one of the easiest ways to strengthen the economy. People want to live and vacation somewhere with a unique and vibrant local community. The longer small businesses stay open, the more people will want to vacation and move to Portland. The more people move to and visit Portland, the more business small shops we will get, and the more small shops will open. This is great for the local economy and starts a positive cycle. For every $100 spent buying products from local businesses, an average of $68 are kept in the community. When shopping at large corporations, that number is significantly smaller, only $48. And if you’re buying something online, almost no money goes back into the local community. By shopping locally, your money has the most positive impact. The people working at these small businesses might also be your friends and neighbors. They might go to your church, synagogue, or mosque, and their kids might go to Cleveland. So when you buy locally you’re helping them support themselves and their kids.

Not only are you helping the people in your community, but you’re helping the world. The United States is constantly consuming, and it’s taking a toll on the earth. Industrial pollution accounts for 50 percent of all the pollution in the world. However, local businesses use less transportation, fewer resources, and consume less land. Most of the products sold are locally sourced and don’t have to be shipped in from places like China or India. The more that small businesses begin to appear in a city, the more walkable and bikeable that city becomes. This is better and more enjoyable for the people that live there, and it’s better for the environment.

Despite all this, many people shy away from shopping at local businesses because they think that the products are overpriced. It can feel like stores are ripping you off when they try to sell you a scarf for $20, when you could buy something similar at Forever 21 for less than five. However, the products sold at these large stores are always mass produced, and usually low quality. The products sold at small local businesses are generally handmade, artisan, and unique. They’re quirky and cute gifts that you can’t get elsewhere. The owners of these stores are usually experts on what they’re selling, so this service is better.

But if you still don’t think that this is worth the price, there are some other things to keep in mind. Big corporations work tirelessly to give you the lowest possible price, even if they’re cheating other people in the process. This may be the cashiers or retail workers who barely scrape a living wage. Or this may be the people working in sweatshops on the other side of the world, who sometimes make as low as 13 cents an hour. So when considering whether to buy the $5 or $20 scarf for your friend, think about all the people who are also being affected by this decision.

Many small and local businesses are known for selling products that are good quality, handmade, and personal. So while products at large stores may be cheaper, what you’re buying is unlikely to be made with the same love and care. I understand that the majority of people reading this are shopping on a tight budget. I know I am. But as consumers we have a lot of power. If you choose to shop locally this holiday season, you’re also helping families buy gifts for their kids, rather than stuffing more money into the pockets of millionaires. You’re investing money into your local community and you’re having a more positive impact on the environment.

Where better to look for the perfect present?