Shop Home Sweet Home
● By Aimee Cormier
By Amanda Jean Harris / Submitted Photos
The average American spends somewhere between .5 percent and 1.2 percent of their annual income on holiday shopping. Some estimates show parents spend an average of $224 per child for Christmas gifts with our national retail industry generating more than $3 trillion during the holiday season. Imagine the impact if everyone kept those resources right here at home in Acadiana.
“I believe it is important for people to shop local because it helps stimulate the economy in the community,” says Jere Cooper of Allain’s Jewelry.
Shopping local is more than a moral boost, as Cooper says, there is a literal and clear economic impact on local communities. How much your dollar means for a local business depends on a number of factors, but research from firms like the national Civic Economics group show that for every $100 spent by consumers who buy products and services from non-local business, $43 stays around town compared to buying from local businesses that keeps $68 in town.
For some smaller operations, it doesn’t take much for a holiday season to make or break them. According to the owner The Blue Butterfly in New Iberia, Denise Hebert, the importance of shopping local is very much real.
“I think it’s important to shop local so that we can support our community and help our beautiful town grow,” she says. “Our tax dollars help to improve and expand our town by keeping them in our own community.”
While keeping individual businesses thriving is a hallmark of a strong local shopping community, the impact of shopping local can make a difference throughout the community at large as well.
“Keeping your money here in the local economy helps local police and it helps builds new roads and bridges. Most importantly, it keeps our schools updated and the doors open,” Cooper says. “Every time someone buys online or in a neighboring community it only stimulates that person or community. It does nothing for the community in which you live or the schools your kids attend.”
It’s what some experts call the multiplier effect. There are several components to local shopping. The first that’s obvious and often touted is that shopping local is directly benefiting your local community members — instead of boosting sales for a new jet for a CEO, you’re helping pay for your neighbor’s kid’s soccer uniform or keeping a beloved family business going for another year.
“I love to shop local because you meet local business owners and become friends with them all while supporting the local economy,” says devoted local shopper Crystall Coroy. “Sometimes I create excuses to visit local boutiques just to chat with the owner. I end up spending a few buck, but I always leave with a smile.”
While the feel good, morale-boosting results of shopping local are a wonderful part of the equation, the other less obvious impact is the multiplier effect.
Amiba, the American Independent Business Alliance, puts it simply — “independent locally-owned businesses recirculate a far greater percentage of revenue locally compared to absentee-owned businesses or locally-owned franchises. In other words, going local creates more local wealth and jobs.”
According to Julie Calzone with Shop Lafayette, who is a local business owner at the helm of ad firm Calzone & Associates, “statistical data indicates that on average, 48 percent of each purchase at local independent businesses was recirculated locally, compared to less than 14 percent of purchases at chain stores.”
That recirculation comes in the form of payroll, goods and services purchased from other area businesses as a result of your purchase, profits spent locally by owners and donations to local area charities.
As many people look at oil prices and economic uncertainty, it is perhaps more important than ever to band together even as we shop.
“Why would you want to pack up the car and drive 30 plus miles, fight traffic just to get the same product we have here at our local retailers,” Cooper asks. “Buy something online just to be disappointed when you receive it or have a problem with the item and have to ship it back? And, yes, I think you can get almost anything you need for the holidays right here at home. Try getting a friendly smile and great customer service from the big box store or your computer.”
It’s all about relationships when it comes to shopping local, as Calzone also explains. And while looking to a spot like Amazon may seem easier, keeping all your holiday shopping local is very doable even on a budget of both money and time. So, is getting something for everyone on the list in a local spot really possible?
“Yes. Yes. Yes. And, why not? It’s a matter of desire to do it, not the lack of product or inventory in the local market,” Calzone says. “Most locally owned retailers can source or find just about anything that anyone wants to buy or they have it in stock. There is the instant gratification that you can look at it, feel it, try it on and return it if it doesn’t work out. It’s about being willing to have relationship with a person instead of digital entity. It is a whole lot more fun. It becomes an experience.”
And, for those who love the quick and impersonal experience of online shopping (that’s right, some people like to forgo those holiday smiles for shopping on their couch in their PJs), they can still keep it local. Check Instagram, Facebook and the websites of local retailers and either ask them to hold something for you to come in and decide in-store to buy or purchase online and pick-up or have delivered to your front door. Amazon isn’t the only game in online shopping.
Places like Vanessa V. in Lafayette have a robust Instagram feed with the phone number listed, which allows shoppers to buy over the phone and pick up. Shop Three Little Birds in Downtown Lafayette was an entirely online local enterprise before opening its doors and they have tons of merchandise to purchase online.
However you’re making the purchase, the money you spend is staying local and making a difference.
“I think we can encourage people by reminding them that they can help our town be a place that people want to visit,” says Hebert who owns a New Iberia shop. “I definitely think we have something to offer everyone locally. We have to make it a priority to shop local with the intention of bettering our community.”
One of perhaps the greatest challenges to local shopping is the marketing factor. Smaller local businesses are facing the onslaught of holiday campaigns and relentless ads of large chain stores and big-box enterprises.
“It really is about awareness. It’s about letting shoppers know that “you can get it here.” It’s about creating the awareness that it’s easier to call a local merchant for something than shop online to send your money and tax dollars somewhere else,” Calzone says.
Using one collective voice, local businesses can better compete with the larger chains. Enter efforts like the Iberia Downtown Business Association or in Lafayette the Shop Lafayette campaign. While local stores are busy about their own work, a central effort to promote local businesses in general and individual stores can impact community awareness in one easy location for consumers.
“I believe in our locally owned businesses and their capability to deliver and produce whatever we want,” Calzone says. “It really is about a commitment and being a role model for shoppers. The local retailer brings personality, customization, personalization and a special feeling with each purchase. They are the backbone of American business. When we support them, we are supporting our friends and their families. We are saying, ‘you can do it and we support you!’ It makes shopping a special experience. If they say, ‘you look great in that,’ they mean it. After all, everyone you know will see you in it and know where you got it. It’s a reflection of the retailer. How many times have I walked into a store and been offered a cup of coffee, a glass of wine and place to sit and chat? Local retailers make shopping feel like home.”