Opinion: The case for shopping local; good for economy (and more fun) – The Detroit News

Opinion: The case for shopping local; good for economy (and more fun) – The Detroit News

Brendan Clarey
| The Detroit News

Like everyone else, my family’s been impacted by the coronavirus and subsequent shutdowns. We stayed home mostly, traveled sparingly and gained weight accordingly. And while our waistlines were growing, many local businesses’ revenues were shrinking.

As some of us get our last-minute gifts, remember that shopping local is important to sustain your community. And as I discovered, it’s a fun way to get out during a pandemic year. 

As a man, I never know what to get people for Christmas if it isn’t on a list, but while I was shopping for my wife at local stores, I found that they had already done the hard work for me.

My problem suddenly wasn’t knowing what to get her, it was trying to figure out what I could afford.

People seem to already understand the need to patronize small businesses. I went into a small gift shop in Canton forgetting that it was “small business Saturday” after Thanksgiving earlier this year. It was as packed as could be while still maintaining six feet of distance between people.

That was a good sign, but what about the next Saturday and the Saturday after that? What about next year?

Starting in March, we were told to stay home and all nonessential businesses took a backseat. The majority of Michigan residents understand that someone needs to help these retail businesses.

“58% of Michigan voters said helping small businesses bounce back was the first issue that state leaders should address,” a poll from the Detroit Regional Chamber found. 

The good news is we don’t have to wait for state leaders to take action. We can start helping them by making sure we’re going to small stores near where we live, and by the looks of it, we can do it safely.

Although certainly more difficult to trace accurately than schools and nursing homes, there are no current COVID-19 outbreaks in Michigan for shoppers, and only one person is on record as getting infected from visiting a store. 

“If you think about it from a macro level, shopping local means you’re also supporting your property taxes,” says Ingrid Tighe, executive director of the Birmingham Shopping District. “That helps your surrounding parks and neighborhoods. The workers and owners of these businesses often live locally. You’re employing people who are in your community.

“It’s more than just ‘Amazon delivers to my door in one day.’ Amazon doesn’t contribute directly to the vitality of your community.”

Tighe points to a report from last year that found that 44% of economic activity comes from small businesses. That same report also found that small businesses create two-thirds of net new jobs.

She also notes a study from the Michigan Retailers Association that found if Michigan residents switched one remote purchase to local, in-state ones, it would generate more than $1.2 billion in increased economic activity for the state. It would also add 10,000 jobs. 

I confess, I have in the past ordered all my gifts for others online. But this year, my wife and I strived to do the majority of our Christmas shopping at small, local stores. 

For many of our family members, we were able to find things we never would have thought to look for online because the stores had great selections of interesting products. We were able to look at and pick things up and see them, which made it easier to choose presents. 

It was also a great time to get out of the house, and because restaurants are closed for indoor dining, it was one of the few places to go out and spend money. We made a day out of it and thoroughly enjoyed spending a few hours downtown. 

So for those who still need to do their Christmas shopping at the last minute, who don’t want to risk delays from the backlogged United States Postal Service or who missed the deadline for shipping, local businesses have the right presents to put under your tree.

All economic benefits aside, I hope my family has as much fun opening and using the gifts as I had picking them out at small stores in the area. Unfortunately, I’ll have to wait until the end of next year to go shopping for everyone else, but if there’s some cash in my stocking this Christmas I know where I’m headed. 

Brendan Clarey is an editorial fellow at The Detroit News.

Twitter: @BrendanClarey

Published at Tue, 22 Dec 2020 04:14:09 +0000

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