Wednesday, December 17, 2014

9 Ways to Shop Local for the Holidays ... And Beyond

From the bean of Green Bean.

A banner hangs across the main street of a local town.

Last year, I tried for a Nothing New Christmas, but this year, I admit that I am buying a bit more.  That said, I am trying to make my money count.  Did you know that "$45 out of every $100 spent at small businesses stays local."  Only $15 out of every $100, by contrast, stays local when you shop at national chains?  There are many more reasons to buy local - preserve the character of your area, create local jobs, foster entrepreneurship, and "help sustain vibrant, compact, walkable town centers" to name a few.

To be honest, though, one of the best reasons to shop local for the holidays is because you get better gifts.

1) Toy Stores - In my experience, independent toy stores carry more American and locally made products than chain stores.  They also offer a wider selection of educational and old fashioned toys as well as arts and craft kits and supplies.  If you are heading out this weekend to stuff the stockings, skip the Dollar Spot at Target and peruse your local toy store.  Try some old fashioned wooden airplanes, a wooden top, a jump roper or a bag of magic tricks.  If your elf prefers Legos or My Little Pony, never fear.  Local toy stores will likely carry that too.

2) Book Stores - While book stores - even chain stores - are few and far between these days, we are lucky enough to have a thriving children's bookstore in our town.  Sure, Amazon has the "recommended for you" algorithm but it just ain't the same as a flesh and blood 20-something voracious reader who eagerly takes your child to discover his next new series.  Staff at independent book stores offer unparalleled advice on books for gifts and book stores also carry other little (often local) items from stocking stuffers.  Indeed, a good friend once created a game and this book store sold it for her.  If you don't know where your local book store is or if you prefer to order online, check out IndieBound.

3) Liquor Stores - Yes, I said it. We have a huge liquor store a few towns over that almost went out of business when two Bev Mos went in in neighboring cities.  Local folks rallied and the store is, thankfully, still open.  I stopped by this store this week to buy wine and gift baskets for my husband's colleagues.  While there, I couldn't help pick a half dozen bottles from their huge selection of boutique sodas (including some brewed in my town!) as well as honey from a favorite beekeeper. Try finding that at Bev Mo!

4) Grocery Stores - These might not be the first place you think of to buy holiday gifts but independent grocery stores often carry many speciality items and handmade, local treats - like candy, baked goods and such.  Our local store also stocks local wine and small wrapped goodies that are perfect for hostess or teacher gifts.  You might also fine locally roasted coffee or gourmet tea or hot cocoa. 

5) Bakeries - We often get a Bouche de Noel from a local bakery and sometimes wrapped cookies, breads or granola. The day after Thanksgiving, we visited the small town of Solvang - a tourist destination with more bakeries you can count.  Many offered boxes of their signature cookies which make unique and tasty gifts.

6) Antique Stores and Second Hand Stores - I strongly believe in supporting the second hand retail market. As I found out the hard way last year when a favorite antique store closed, if we don't support these outlets, they will close and all of our items that could have headed for reuse will instead head to the landfill.  Antique and thrift stores are, in my opinion, the best place to find baskets and containers for homemade gift baskets.  You can also find charming gift tags, puzzles, platters for homemade cookies and one of a kind treasures.

7) Farmers Markets - I understand that not everyone lives in California, where we have year round farmers' markets, but if you have any open markets or farm stands near you, these are wonderful meccas for unique, thoughtful gifts such as trail mixes, soaps, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, handmade pasta, locally made chocolate treats, wreaths, dried flower arrangements and more.

8) Garden Centers - Most nurseries do not shut down just because it is cold outside.  Instead, they stock their indoor space with seeds, garden tools, cards,  books, and Christmas decorations.  Us gardeners would delight in almost anything from these outlets!! 

9) Take a Walk on Main Street, in Your Downtown or at a Local Strip Mall - There are numerous more ways to shop local.  You just have to get outside the mall, off the Internet and open your eyes.  Our local downtown also has a kitchen shop which I always visit for my mother-in-law, a balsamic vinegar and olive oil store that carries wonderful gifts for business colleagues, a pet store which stocks locally baked biscuits as well as toys for the furry ones in your life.  The list is endless and much more enjoyable than busting down doors or fighting for toys at a chain store.  Get to know your neighbors, your city, and keep your local economy thriving.

Shop Local for the Holidays ... And Beyond. 


Anne said...

All good ideas! I admit I was unsuccessful in buying an item from a local toy store instead of the big box store. I inquired to see if they could order it for me, but they said they can't compete in being able to carry the item. So, shopping local is good, buying things made locally, might be even better.

Green Bean said...

@Anne - I can relate! I ended up having to order my kids' "big gift" (a Lego set each) online because our local toy stores did not have the selection. Most everything else - games, books and stocking stuffers - I got locally. Like you, I think it is much better to buy things MADE locally too but I do find more of a selection of local and American made at locally owned stores.

robbie @ going green mama said...

Great ideas! We have a bookstore in town where all the proceeds help local literacy programs. It's a drive, but well worth the additional investment in my community!


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