Shopping in your neighborhood strengthens the whole city

With his factory at the North Pole and all those undocumented elvish workers, Santa belongs on the naughty list — at least when it comes…

With his factory at the North Pole and all those undocumented elvish workers, Santa belongs on the naughty list — at least when it comes to shopping locally. But while the health of our economy might not matter to a Jolly Old Elf who works one night a year, paying a little more attention to where we buy our holiday gifts could really benefit the rest of us.

Writer and local business owner Carrie Rollwagen runs a blog called “Shop Small,” recounting her adventures in shopping as much as possible at locally owned, independent retailers. Photo by Morgan Tinker.

But how do you get out of the holiday shopping maze of malls, online retailers and superstores? First, think about whom you’re buying for and how much you want to spend. Santa may not be the poster child for local shopping, but he’s on to something with that whole “make a list and check it twice” thing. Take a few minutes to make sure your gift says, “I see who you are; you’re important to me, and I value our relationship,” not, “Look what I found on sale at the last minute.”

Once you have a list (and a budget), research local shops that might carry what you’re looking for. Google, Facebook and Twitter are great resources to crowd-source locally owned shops that carry the items on your list. Chances are, you’ll also have to do some browsing, and that’s where the knowledgeable staffs and unique finds of local shops really shine. Invite a friend to spend a Saturday browsing at a shopping district with walkable independent stores — try downtown Homewood, the Villages of Mountain Brook or the Second Avenue strip in downtown Birmingham. Finalize your list over locally bought lattes, shop for a few hours, then wrap up your day with lunch at an independently owned café.

You can also boost your buy-local impact by making sure your family and friends know you’d like to receive local gifts. Make a wish list of a few favorite things and include where to buy them locally, then post the list on Facebook. You’re more likely to get gifts you actually like, and you’ll help educate your loved ones about the benefits of shopping small.

No matter what you’re celebrating this December, most every faith and tradition has in common a call to be thankful for the good things in our lives, to recognize the people we love and to let them know they’re important to us. The few moments it takes to stop, break our big box buying habits, and think about where we’re shopping could be just the pause we need to make our shopping, and our holiday gifts, more meaningful.

Carrie Rollwagen is co-owner of the local, independent shop, Church Street Coffee & Books. Read about her year of buying locally at shopsmallblog.tumblr.com, or follow Church Street on Facebook at fb.com/churchstreetcoffee.

 

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