There’s value in shopping locally for holidays and throughout the year

As the days on the calendar pass and Christmas draws closer, consumers will be inundated by messages about shopping for that last-minute gift, the trimmings for a holiday dinner, or that something they can’t do without.

A holiday spending outlook recently released by PwC Canada suggests that 80 per cent of Canadians expect to spend the same or more than last year with respondents suggesting they’re going to spend an average of just over $600 on gifts and just over $200 on entertainment. Another survey, conducted last year by the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada suggests that four in 10 of those consumers save money throughout the year to shop now.

With all of that economic activity set to occur, it’s not surprising local retailers are trying to stay front-of-mind. Shop local campaigns, shopping parties and special promotions are planned this time of year. While shopping online or shopping out-of-town may provide some convenience, there’s value in checking out these retail promotions and supporting them.

Numbers released by the American Independent Business Alliance based on a series of economic studies suggest that for every dollar spent at a local, independent business, 52 cents are recirculated back into the local economy. That money keeps people employed, it assists with a local owner’s buying power to offer more goods at competitive prices, and in many cases, it also allows those owners to give back to charitable causes that impact the communities they serve. Chances are arts program or that sports team you enjoy is supported by the local business community. Hospitals also have a long tradition of drawing from local merchants to fund impotant, life-saving equipment, while other community support services simply wouldn’t be able to exist on government funding alone.

By comparison, the studies showed money spent by chain retailers recirculates at around 13 cents on the dollar. With online retailing, it may be even more difficult to quantify.

Beyond the altruistic benefit of shopping locally, there are also other distinct advantages that make local retailers worth a look this holiday season and throughout the year. Chief among them is service. Consumers can have a face-to-face conversation with local experts who know their field and can make the best suggestions to meet needs. The conversation is equally important to a small business owner because their reputation is their livelihood. Perhaps unlike a major retailer or a faceless online retailer or part-time vendor, negative word-of-mouth can quickly impact their sales and squeeze an already-thin bottom line too far.

While the PwC Canada outlook found that price remains the top factor in shopping decisions for the people surveyed, it also showed Canadians are planning to shop locally. Some 58 per cent said they’d prefer to shop with local retailers while nearly a third found it important to shop with socially responsible brands, support retailers that donate to charity, or buy artisanal gifts. Why not join them in that endeavour?