Shop small! Two days after Thanksgiving and one day after the Black Friday madness comes Small Business Saturday. Created by American Express, the shopping holiday has become popular in recent years as a way to shift shopper attention and money away from major retailers and towards small and local businesses.
Is giving gifts a part of your winter holiday traditions? Then let your gifts serve as a practice in intentional spending as you support local businesses!
Why Should I Shop Small Businesses?
- Your purchase supports real people, not a mega-corporation. It’s hard for small business owners to make enough money to keep their businesses going. By buying local, you’re keeping wealth in your local economy, investing in the health of your community, and keeping your neighbors in work.
- Shipping has an environmental cost. Shopping at local businesses can be good for the environment if the products you buy aren’t traveling across the country.
- When you decide to shop small, it’s easier to ensure that you’re shopping ethically. If you know your wallet was made by a local leatherworker, you don’t have to worry that it was sewn by an underpaid worker in a sweatshop somewhere.
- Likewise, when you decide to buy local food you have more control over the ethics of your food purchases. We all know about the terrible living conditions large industrial farms impose on the animals they slaughter for us to eat. Choosing meat from smaller farms very often means you’re eating not just cows, but happy cows. That grow up in fields and maybe even eat grass. And in my experience, it tastes so. Much. Better. Win-win.
Do I have to give up what I actually want to shop local?
Definitely not! If your lover wants a Sonos speaker for Christmas, it’s not like you have to say “Sorry! Here’s a wool hat instead. SHOP SMALL.”
But if you look at the things you buy already, some of them are things you can probably get locally. Some things that are usually available at a local level include:
- soaps, lotions, and lip balms
- produce, meats, and spices
- candies, chocolate, and honey
- beer and wine
- some clothing items like scarves, hats, mittens, and socks
- purses, bags, and wallets
- jewelry in a lot of different styles
- stationery and printing
- wall art and home decor
- quilted or knit throw blankets
- earthenware and ceramics like mugs, plates, and serving bowls
But isn’t it more expensive to buy from small businesses?
Sometimes it is more expensive to shop small. Here are some things to think about.
Small business owners aren’t trying to scam you into paying more.
Massive corporations are able to offer low prices due to what’s called the economy of scale. The large size of these businesses means that they can invest in factories and machinery that crank out thousands of bars of soap a day. Producing on such a large scale makes the goods cheaper. Meanwhile, the local artisan might be hand pouring that many bars in a month, so there’s no way they can compete on price.
Shopping small is a way to vote with your money.
Redirecting some of your spending to local businesses is one small way to rebel against corporate capitalism. It’s like saying, “I reject a model of consumption where megacorporations funnel all my money up to wealthy CEOs.” If you believe that a community’s economic health starts at the bottom, shop local.
Shopping local represents a turn away from a scarcity mindset.
A scarcity mindset is what makes us think, “I need to get the cheapest option possible because I need to be able to buy as many things as possible.” But is that what we really need? The cheapest of everything, all the time? Is that what we want our lives to look like? Choosing to invest in some quality products invigorates your local community but also gives you a chance to splurge on something quality. Go ahead. Compare that microbrew to Budweiser and tell me it’s not worth the occasional splurge!
Where Can I Shop Small?
- Farmer’s markets, local butchers and grocery co-ops are great places to get meats and produce from the local area.
- Etsy isn’t necessarily local, but it can connect you with thousands of small businesses and artisans you won’t find anywhere else.
- Gift shops or artist galleries often offer a surprising variety of one-of-a-kind gifts and specialty items.
- Holiday bazaars. This time of year there are a ton of them!
- Art schools or college art departments usually have semi-annual sales to showcase local ceramicists and visual artists.
Here in Chapel Hill, we’re lucky enough to have lots of options for shopping local. The Left Bank Butchery has sustainable farming practices and the best beef and ham I’ve ever tasted. The Carrboro Farmer’s Market and Weaver Street Market Co-op are both perfect one-stop shops for local produce year-round. Cedar Creek Gallery just a short drive away offers ceramics, metalworks, and home decor created by local artists. Try a quick Google maps search to see what’s available in your local area.