Christmas Shopping Consideration #1

A series of posts considering the options for Christmas shopping (online, retail, local, eccentric) and the impacts of our decisions (financially, socially, preservation-esque). This is post 1 of  4. See considerations  #2, #3, #4.

Consideration 1: Avoid big box retailers.

Christmas decorations popped up in stores long before Halloween, some radio stations are already playing Christmas music, and stores already have holiday sales.  I don’t know about you, but I love Christmas…AFTER Thanksgiving. Before then, I consider it my personal horror movie. I love the fall and winter season. They should each have their own season rather than Labor Day, sort of fall, Christmas.  If you haven’t been, you are about to find your mailbox and Sunday paper  bombarded with flyers and catalogs every week, often from the biggest chain stores like Wal-Mart and Kmart and Target.

When you choose to begin your Christmas shopping is on your terms. But, when Christmas season arrives, do you consider where you are shopping? Are you more likely to cave and shop at chain superstores? Or do you look for more unique gifts from boutiques, local and regional stores, festivals, etc.? 

The economy is suffering and holiday shopping is likely to reflect recent economic trends. Consumers will probably shop less, but still shop at the discount retailers like the giants of Wal-Mart, Kmart, and Target.  Local stores and even smaller chain businesses are going to have a hard time keeping pace, I would imagine.

What does this have to do with historic preservation?

While the subject of giant retail stores has many tangents, let’s stick with the basic tenets.  As preservationists we typically want to support local businesses – those that support, appreciate, and create communities, those that comprise downtowns and those who have roots in the area.  Avoiding chain businesses is something that we generally strive for year round, but it might become more difficult when you need to shop for multiple people and spend a lot of money. Temptations might be rising.

Here are a few reasons for avoiding those chain stores:

1.       Shopping locally will keep money in your community.  Money in the community keeps business thriving, which translates into a good quality of life for everyone around.

2.       Local stores will probably be less crowded than the materialistic inducing megastores.  Less crowded stores mean a more pleasant shopping experience for you, which equals enjoying the holiday season and fewer cases of buyer’s remorse.

3.       Many downtowns will have special holiday shopping weekends with store specials and other incentives like snacks and cider.

4.       Employees are usually more helpful in local businesses and can spend more time helping you, when needed.

5.       With all of the scares in children’s toys and food production, you will have an easier time finding answers to those questions at smaller stores.

6.       If you normally shop locally and suddenly cave to large retailers for the holidays, then you’re not really sticking to your beliefs about preservation, are you?

7.       By shopping at chains stores during the most profitable time of the year for many businesses, you’re only supporting the chain. They don’t need to earn more money, if we’re comparing earnings here.

I could go on and on with reasons as to why local shopping is better for the community (read: your life), but we all know that dollars spent in local stores benefit your community.  If you’re up for some deep research, read this report on the affects of big box retail in Austin, TX (from FullCircle). See this blog post or this newspaper article for another list of reasons to shop locally. Chain stores represent corporate America. Yes, America is based on capitalism, but that should mean that everyone has a chance, not that only a few monopolies have a chance to make a living.  

Local Options

Local stores do not just mean “unique gifts,” if you’re not into that sort of thing.  There can be local and regional sporting good stores, toy stores, book stores, hardware stores, etc.  If you live in a city, there will be no end to stores, museum stores (some of the best kids’ gifts, by the way), festivals, flea markets, and other varieties. A place such as a flea market or a festival will probably have unique handmade items, antiques, and typical bulk items from kitchen items to pocketbooks and shoes to home décor, etc.  And okay, sometimes you can’t find everything you need locally, but don’t automatically rely on the big box retailers.

Please, before you shop, consider shopping locally or regionally.

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Next in the series: what if you can’t shop locally?

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