Support your community, shop local this holiday season

This holiday season, before you send your dollars to some far-off digital retailer that will deliver your package on time but nothing more, remember that you can have a much greater impact when you shop local in southeastern Connecticut.

It's hard to fault folks for shopping online. Its convenient and makes it easy to seek out bargains. And if you prioritize making fewer stops, a mega retailer makes sense.

But remember, it is a choice, and people should weigh their options. Shopping locally aligns much better with the spirit of the season, whatever winter solstice-related holidays you celebrate.

And it can help a gift buyer avoid mistakes.

Suppose you want to buy a skateboard for a favorite daughter or nephew. One major online retailer returns nearly 80,000 search results. Maybe you’ll happen to pick the right one. Maybe not. Or you could visit Hive Skate Shop, which has been in business in New London for five years. “We can walk a dad or mom through the process to get something their kid will like,” said owner Charlie King. “It helps to have an expert opinion. As a pro shop, we are curators of quality products.”

And if you do buy the wrong one, it’s a lot easier to return or exchange it at a local shop where the recipient can find the right one. There are no RMA numbers and extra trips to the post office.

For those who simply must have their shopping mitigated by a screen, local shops have websites, too. About 20 percent of Hive’s sales are online, and a quarter of those are to customers in the local area. But a huge advantage of shopping locally is the ability to hold the product in your hands and take it home right away.

More important, when you shop locally, your dollars will stay in the community.

“We have the products and the pricing to compete pretty evenly with online, but online retailers aren’t going to work with the community to help build a skatepark or do events that are skate related for younger kids. They aren’t going to have a measurable role in the community,” King said. His shop is working through a nonprofit with the city to build a skatepark for kids in Fulton Park.

Shopping local means the dollars you spend go to people who live nearby, creating jobs and opportunities. Connecticut retailers employ 337,000 people and do $17 billion worth of business. Every purchase from a far-off online shop detracts from that.

Even if the local shop is part of a national chain, it’s preferable to going online. At least it employs locals. The company itself might not have much of a community stake – though that isn’t always the case – but its workers certainly do.

Better still, choose to spend your money at locally-owned small businesses. Mom-and-pop stores that source their products regionally are the real engines of economic prosperity for a city and a region. They also have a much smaller environmental footprint when their goods come from nearby.

Online retailers used to have a considerable advantage over brick-and-mortar stores, but the difference has narrowed or disappeared. Big online sellers now charge state sales tax, and local stores have figured out new ways to be competitive on price while winning on quality of service.

It’s true that some items aren’t available locally, and there’s no harm in buying those online. Take advantage of the opportunity that the digital era provides.

But given the choice, why not make sure that your purchase brings holiday cheer to not just the person ripping off the wrapping paper in a few weeks but also to some of your neighbors who own and work in local stores?

Small Business Saturday this weekend, with special bargains in place, is a great time to give local stores a look.

 

 

 

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.

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