Monday, December 26, 2011

Tips for Shopping Local

Before the craziness of holiday shopping started I decided to set a goal for myself: to buy all our gifts from local or small businesses.  My decision was partially inspired by the Occupy Movement.  Its encouraged me to examine my purchasing habits and the forces driving the decisions businesses make.  I've come to realize that local and small businesses are more invested not only in their customers, but also in their communities.  It seems like a simple concept, but its not something I have been conscious of before.
I did hit some speed bumps along the way, but over all it was an enjoyable and fruitful experience.  Here are some tips when you set out to shop local/small yourself.

1.  Call ahead.  I grew up with the internet -- I'm used to looking up a business's hours, address, and what they sell with a quick search on Google.  This is not always the case with small businesses.  Take, for example, my search for yarn.  First, it was hard to find a local shop that sold yarn.  When I did find a store, the hours listed online were not the hours in the store.  In fact, I found they were by appointment only when I arrived.  To be safe, call ahead to keep from being disappointed.

2.  Get you shopping done early, especially around holidays.  Some shops I wanted to visit are closed from Christmas Eve to New Years' Day.  When you own a small business you can do that.  Its great to have that long break with family.  However, for the holiday shopper it makes it extremely important to make sure you're not out shopping on Christmas Eve, because more than likely your only options will be big box stores.

3.  Wish lists sometimes don't compute.  If your niece, granddaughter, or daughter has the latest Disney Princess doll on her wishlist, you might strike out with local/small businesses.  Solutions?  See if you can find something on Etsy.com that incorporates themed fabric, or go for something similar, but unbranded.

4.  Along the same lines, keep an open mind.  The wonderful thing about most small/local stores is that you're going to find something unique.  Sometimes its better to go in with as little as an age range and a price limit, than an extremely specific list to keep your options open.  If you have a very specific list, try surfing small businesses online, or set aside the time to hit several local shops to find that perfect something.

5.  Realize you might have to pay a little more.  Yes, shockingly it is cheaper to buy something mass produced in China and shipped all the way around the globe than it is to buy something made by a local artisan.  That's just the way things are, but take comfort knowing the extra dollars you spent are staying local and supporting your neighbors and community.  Plus, I find that local and small businesses typically have higher quality items, so I think its money very well spent.

Next time you venture out to shop, consider buying small or local.  Its so much fun and worth every penny.