Editorial: Shop local pledge

Americans expect to curtail their spending this holiday season amid economic uncertainty and a pandemic. A Gallup poll in October found that U.S. shoppers predict they will spend an average of $805 on Christmas gifts this year, the lowest holiday spending projection Gallup has measured since 2016.  

For many families, especially those who have experienced job losses or faced unforeseen healthcare expenses, that figure can seem laughably high. There may be no money for gifts this year. Or for groceries, oil or the phone bill. 

For those households with the funds, where they spend them will be critical. Online shopping, already booming pre-pandemic, became all the more attractive to Americans sheltering at home. When small businesses had to shut down in Maine, big-box stores deemed essential remained open and sales there surged. Many small-to-medium brick-and-mortar businesses may never recover. 

Even with retail sales projections down, Americans will still wield enormous spending power in the coming weeks. Holiday sales during November and December 2019 were $729.1 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. Ecommerce accounted for one-fifth of sales and that figure will likely be up this year. Shoppers looking to stay safe and comparison shop may naturally gravitate to major online retailers. 

We proposed an alternative. Shop local. It’s the best deal around. 

Sure, the exact same product may be found cheaper online, but it’s the value of shopping at a local, independently owned businesses that can’t be beat.  

In 2002, the Institute of Local Self-Reliance conducted a case study in Midcoast Maine. The researchers wanted to find out what happens to $100 spent at a local store. Eight businesses in Rockland, Camden and Belfast agreed to open their books. The study found that those businesses spent 44.6 percent of their revenue within Knox and Waldo counties on expenses such wages, inventory, suppliesservices, taxes and charitable contributions. Another 8.7 percent was spent elsewhere in Maine. 

A 2011 study in Portland by the left-leaning Maine Center for Economic Policy found that, on average, 65 percent of the expenses among surveyed businesses were paid to local goods and service producers. The center estimated that spending at local businesses generates as much as a 76 percent greater return to the local economy. 

Plus, local stores have products you might not find elsewhere, first-rate service and plenty of hand sanitizer to go around. 

So, we’re making a promise. This holiday season, we pledge to do at least half of our shopping close to home at locally owned, independent businesses. That could mean a gift from a local shop, gift certificate to a restaurant or donation to a local charity. We hope you will join us too. 

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