The holiday season is quickly approaching, which means that many last-minute shoppers are turning to the convenience of online services to deliver their gifts in time. The internet may be an easy and safe way to buy, but in the midst of a global pandemic, it’s important to support the community and local economy through our purchases.
From handmade gift shops and thrift stores, to restaurants and bakeries, local businesses serve as the foundation of every community. Especially in the Seacoast area, there are many small businesses that offer artisans the opportunity to sell their unique products in their stores. Shopping small has many advantages, such as the chance to give back to the community, choose a more sustainable option, and receive a more personal and meaningful gift.
By shopping small, consumers do their part to support the work of local artisans and entrepreneurs. Ceci Crosby, owner of Good Juju in Newmarket, said that their store provides a space for more than fifty artisans to sell their work. She said, “when you shop locally with us, you’re not just supporting our store, but you’re supporting all of those artists too.” This is also the case for many stores alike, whose primary focus is on featuring the work of local entrepreneurs.
Lisa Keslar, president of the Newmarket Business Association, explained the major impact that consumers have on the artists they purchase from. She stated that, “by shopping local, you’re helping their business put food on the table.” Every dollar counts for these artists, especially around the holidays during a pandemic.
It’s important to remember that the effects of the COVID-19 virus has hit our small, local businesses the hardest, so it is imperative to support them first before shopping at larger corporations. Crosby expressed that “especially this year, where all the craft fairs have been canceled, I think it’s very important to support our local artists.” The space that small businesses provide may be an artist’s only source of income because of the cancellation of other venues.
Even if a consumer is uncomfortable with going inside of a store, many small businesses have developed websites to eliminate contact. Both the Main Street Makery and Good Juju offer an online shopping venue for contactless pickup or delivery to adapt to the concerns of transmitting the virus. “This is our new normal,” said Sarah Grandy, owner of the Durham Main Street Makery. “We continue to engage the community in ways that keep us connected to our customers.” Whether customers decide to shop inside or online, small businesses are gracious for the community support that allows them to stay open.
Not only does shopping small leave a positive impact on the business, but it also provides the customer with an original product. “There’s something about finding that unique, special, one-of-a-kind gift that enriches people’s lives more than, say, a gift card. It has more meaning and an emotional connection,” Keslar explained. Handmade presents are special because they are so unique; no one else in the world has that exact product. In the age where mass production is so mainstream, gifting something homemade provides a personal and meaningful connection.
Other community advantages that small businesses offer are their creation of jobs and promotion of local innovation. As of 2019, according to the Small Business Administration, small businesses create 1.5 million jobs annually and account for 64% of new created jobs in the United States. The economic contribution of small businesses stems from the employment opportunities they offer for locals, where workers are provided the means to support themselves and their families. By providing the space for entrepreneurs to display their work, small businesses not only support the artisan, but they also encourage and inspire others to engage in creative practices of their own. “Artists are the threads of inspiration that weave a community together,” said Grandy.
Another economic benefit that small businesses offer is their capability to circulate the money spent locally in a community. According to “Local Shopping Statistics” by Fundera, an organization that connects small business owners with funding providers, “small businesses generate $68 of local economic return for every $100 spent with them.” By shopping for local products and services, the money flows through local events and organizations, school functions, and charities, which leads to overall community growth and interconnectedness. By supporting local businesses, towns are also able to host holiday and seasonal events that bring the community together.
Many small businesses support more than just the local artisans; they are often involved in local charity work through donations and sponsorship. Good Juju participates by serving as a drop-off and pick-up location for Share the Light luminaries and contributing to End 68 Hours of Hunger. In addition to these charities, The Makery also donates a percentage of their proceeds to many local organizations in the community such as Project Graduation and Womenade. By choosing to support these local businesses, consumers are contributing to charities and organizations that provide support and benefit those in need. Especially during a pandemic, these donations can make such a significant difference to those who need it.
Shopping small during the holidays can also be a way to “shop green,” as many local businesses value environmental sustainability. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, between Thanksgiving to New Years Day, an estimated 1 million extra tons of waste is generated per week. Shopping locally reduces this number, as small businesses often offer fewer, if any, mainstream commodities with plastic packaging. Our carbon footprint is also reduced, as the carbon emissions generated from mass shipping are eliminated. Many of these businesses have even integrated sustainable products into their stores. “A lot of the lines that we carry are made from recycled material, like the totes that are made out of recycled water bottles,” said Crosby. Choosing to shop small during the holidays supports a more eco-friendly culture and contributes to a healthier community and environment.
Where a consumer decides to spend their money impacts the growth and prosperity of the community around them. The impact one customer has may seem small, but the collective community effort to shop locally holds great value. So this year, before you turn to the internet for last-minute shopping needs, think about what you can do locally first.