What would happen if we all committed to shifting just 10 percent of our holiday budget to an independent business instead of a chain restaurant or big-box store? It would mean instead of scrambling for parking and enduring long lines with the masses at a big-box store, you could get a leisurely coffee and a gift card at A Cup of Commonwealth, Common Grounds or North Lime Coffee and Donuts. You could stop in to pick up some books and a T-shirt at Morris Book Shop, or visit The Lexington Angler to get a certificate for fly-fishing lessons. In many cases, you will find a knowledgeable staff person or even the storeowner available to help you select that perfect gift. It’s a far cry from pushing through the masses at an early bird doorbuster sale,refuting the constant requests to sign up for a store credit card and wading through aisles full of stuff that you will likely put in a yard sale in the summer of 2015.
While big-box stores and chains can usually provide the lowest price because of the economies of scale they produce, the price tag you don’t see is the cost to our community. Area businesses invest more into our local economy in the form of profits paid out to local owners, wages for local workers and the procurement of goods and services for operations and resale.
This local purchasing power translates to more opportunity for local accountants, attorneys, architects, construction crews, insurance brokers, IT experts, marketing and advertising agencies and many other businesses that provide products and supplies that help churn one another. More tax dollars stay in our area, and local businesses usually are strong supporters of local nonprofit organizations, providing donations for silent auctions, sponsorships and partnerships.
In 2012, the American Booksellers Association sponsored a study in Louisville to compare the impact of local businesses to their chain counterparts. For every $100 spent at a local, independently owned retailer in Louisville, $55 of all revenue was reinvested in the local economy, compared to $13.60 in reinvested revenue from chain competitors. For local Louisville restaurants, the results were even greater. Those surveyed returned 67 percent of revenue locally, compared to the 30.4 percent of reinvestment returned to the local economy by chain competitors. Studies conducted in nine other cities over the past 10 years have yielded very similar results.
While chains and box stores may have more variety of basic goods, local businesses are the primary outlet of locally produced inventory. Shopping at local businesses is one of the best ways to incubate the efforts of local entrepreneurs that produce music, books, media, food, clothes, decor and art. Big-box stores and chain selection is determined by a few powerful corporate buyers likely based in a faraway headquarter office, rather than hand selected by someone who knows area trends and taste.
Shopping local requires just a small shift in mindset. Need a new outfit for a holiday party? Instead of the mall, try Bella Rose, Howard and Miller, the Black Market or Bluetique. Book your annual holiday meal with friends at one of Lexington’s amazing local restaurants like Bourbon n’ Toulouse, Stella’s Kentucky Deli, Smithtown Seafood or Athenian Grill. Good Foods Co-Op on Southland Drive is a wonderful place to buy an organic pumpkin pie and a turkey raised in Harrodsburg for family dinners. You can send Santa to Barney Miller’s or Pieratt’s for electronic gifts, or try one of the local nurseries or a charity-sponsored tree lot for a live Christmas tree. Celebrate your shopping success by heading down to the Chevy Chase Inn for a cold pitcher of beer, or visit one of Lexington’s amazing craft breweries like Country Boy, West Sixth or my favorite, Blue Stallion Brewery.
Local First Lexington has several resources available to help you find local restaurants and businesses that will make your holiday purchases special not only to the recipient, but thoughtful for your community as well.
Sarah Razor is the author of the Chevy Chase Inn: Tall Tales and Cold Ales from Lexington’s Oldest Bar.