Shopping Local is More than a Holiday Trend – It’s a Shift Towards Community Empowerment

Friday, December 21, 2018

Main News Photo

Amidst the holiday hustle and bustle, it's good to remember the small local businesses that add character to our community, and the many quality products and unique gifts that can be found in Skagit County’s downtown retailers.  We encourage shopping local for any last-minute holiday gifts and remembering to shop local year-round.

The groundbreaking BALLE framework suggests acting local as a driver for building better, stronger and more equitable communities, stating, “The path to quality jobs, deeper connection and wealth-building for more neighbors is tied to the number and diversity of locally-owned businesses in a community.” There are several reasons for this, including:

  • Business ownership is often the path towards personal wealth creation.
  • Locally-owned businesses are consistently more philanthropic.
  • When business owners are tied to a community, they tend to stay in that community, even after growing.
  • Shopping local can be better for the environment, especially if the shop or restaurant sources their products locally.
  • Locally businesses generate revenue and pay taxes that goes towards public services and infrastructure.
  • As local businesses grow, they create additional jobs for community members.


Small Business Owners Support the Community

Locally-owned businesses provide employment that is “historically more resilient during economic downturns; they are typically more involved in civic engagement; and of course, they generate much-needed revenue to support essential public infrastructure and services,” said Ellen Gamson, Executive Director of the Mount Vernon Downtown Association.  Additionally, she has found that when community members act local, there is a widespread economic impact.  “Money spent locally is reinvested within our community; to the tune of 64.8% of every dollar spent at independent retailers, as opposed to just 33.6% of dollars spent in chain retail establishments and big box stores. A recent study of restaurants in Salt Lake City showed that locally owned independent dining venues returned over 78% of all revenue to the local economy, while national restaurant chains averaged around just 30%.”

Some of this reinvestment also comes in the form of activities and events that better the community.  One such example is how Phoebe Carpenter Eells of elSage Designs organized a group of local artisans and vendors to create a pop-up market in front of their store to celebrate elSage Designs’ first anniversary as a brick-and-mortar business.  The celebration was so well received that in 2018, Valley Made Market Pop-Ups were offered monthly from May through September, and again on the Winter Solstice, December 21.  In this way, Phoebe and her company foster up-and-coming small creative businesses, paying it forward while bringing fresh excitement to Downtown Mount Vernon.  This type of community reinvestment often comes because of the personal connections local business owners have with the community as a whole and their desire to create something that makes the community even better.


We Need Local Businesses

From an economic development perspective, local small businesses generate revenue, create jobs and pay taxes.  Still, that is only one small part of why we need them.  Ellen Gamson stated it best when saying, “In today’s world of telecommuting, distance learning and virtual meetings, a strong downtown provides the critical space for people to come together and achieve that sense of direct personal connection that is increasingly harder to come by, and is a necessary component of our social human nature.”  As a society, we have lost many of the institutions that used to bring people together – a downtown café, locally-owned restaurant, bookstore or shop can serve as those gathering spaces and the places that connect people with each other and the community.


Every Dollar Matters

Every dollar spent matters.  If that dollar is spent in a locally-owned business, it may be leveraged 3 or 4 times locally.  Money spent at your favorite local shop allows that shop to pay a salary to their employees, who then spend a percentage of their earnings locally.  By acting local in shopping and dining decisions, you can directly impact Skagit County’s economy and help to keep wealth within our community.

We wish you warm and festive winter holidays!


Category: Economic Development, Small Business, Capacity Building