Only a handful of days remain before Christmas, and you still have lots of gifts to buy. Wait! Step away from your computer. Don’t click on that massive online retailer. If you’re a small business owner, or you just want to help save your community, there’s still time to get great gifts at reasonable prices and feel good doing it.
Yes! You can still shop local, shop small. Safely. And get your holiday gifts in time. Moreover, some of those gifts will be fabulous—unique, special, desired. Yes, it’s possible even if you don’t want to leave your house.
When the world came to a screeching halt because of Covid-19, small businesses were hit first and hit hardest. Businesses all along American Main Streets were shuttered, while huge online retailers made additional billions. Amazon—a company that paid NO taxes last year—doubled its profit as a result of Covid!
While small retail businesses that sold books or clothes or household goods were forced to close, big box stores that sold those same goods but also sold groceries remained open. Independent bookstores—which had been a surprise success story in recent years—are now closing at the rate of one per week.
The big guys got bigger, and the small guys got creamed.
It’s up to us—those of us who are small business owners, who love small businesses, or who just want to see our communities thrive—to take action by putting our dollars where our values are. And the holiday season is crucial.
“If you want jobs in your community, if you want businesses in your community, you need to shop local,” my sister Janice Slater said. Believe it or not, Janice has NEVER, not once, bought anything on Amazon. “I’ll buy from big stores as well as small businesses, but I buy local because I don’t want my city to be just a bunch of empty buildings.”
This year, I’m buying my holiday gifts from small and/or local independent stores and businesses. You can too. How?
How can you do this?
- Shop in person at a local, independent store. In most of America, retail stores still remain open. Small businesses are taking extra precautions to operate safely: limiting the number of shoppers, disinfecting constantly, requiring shoppers and staff to wear masks. You can go into local independent businesses as safely, or more safely, as going in to a big box store.
- Shop online from local, independent stores. If you’re concerned about shopping in-person, you can often shop online from a local independent store. Ask about curbside pickup so you can get your gifts fast and without paying shipping charges.
- Buy gift cards from local retailers, service businesses, and restaurants. Easy. Fast. Safe. Everyone loves getting a gift card. Remember you can get gift cards from many service businesses—such as salons—as well as retailers and restaurants. And these small businesses need your dollars now!
- If one of your favorite local stores, businesses, or restaurants don’t offer online shopping or to buy gift cards online, pick up the phone.
- Shop Bookshop.org. If you can’t get to your local independent bookstore—or you don’t have a bookstore locally—you can still support independent bookselling. Bookshop.org is a new online site that generates sales from and for “indies.” It’s an online book-buying experience you can feel good about.
- Shop Etsy. Etsy is a vetted marketplace for handmade and unique items, typically from individual craftspeople or small businesses. There’s really great, unique stuff here.
- Shop The Grommet. The Grommet helps independent inventors/makers bring innovative, clever new items to market. You will love shopping here, and they have many “quick-to-ship” and expedited shipping gifts that will get there before Christmas.
- Shop in person from a local bigger store. If you can’t find what you want from a small, independent company, at least shop locally. Money spent locally stays in your community and helps create jobs and supports your schools, first responders and roads.
Now, I’m going to tell you the truth: shopping local and shopping small might take just a little more effort and sometimes—not always—cost a bit more. But you’ll find great gifts while helping fellow small business owners and your community. And that’s the Christmas spirit!
Copyright Rhonda Abrams, 2020
This article originally ran in USA Today on December 16, 2020