Chuck Robinson guest writes. Chuck, with his wife Dee, founded Village Books and Paper Dreams in Bellingham’s Fairhaven district in 1980. Since passing on the business to three staff members Chuck has been volunteering on several nonprofit boards and consulting with small businesses and nonprofits.
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While 2020 might be a year we’d like to forget, it’s one we’ll likely remember forever. Nearly every one of us has been impacted in one way or another and local businesses and their employees are among those who’ve been hit hardest.
There have always been good reasons to shop locally. Here are three important ones:
1) The impact on the local economy is three times greater than when money is spent online or with national chains. Those dollars recirculate in the community as businesses, and their employees, purchase goods and services from neighboring businesses;
2) Local businesses invest in the community with dollars, in-kind services, volunteering, and civic engagement; and
3) Local businesses contribute to creating a unique community, adding variety and diversity rather than homogeneity.
If buying from local businesses was important in 2019, it’s crucial in 2020 and 2021. The pandemic forced many businesses to be closed, curtail many of their services, or limit the number of customers they could serve. Now with the holiday season upon us, local businesses are fighting for their survival. While billionaires have increased their wealth (one well-known online businessman has gained more than $48 billion), many small firms are facing bankruptcy.
So, what can you do about it? Shop local and shop early. You know why to shop local. Why shop early? Supply chains are struggling, both on the production end and with delays in shipping. The items you want may not be in stock later. Retail stores are also limited in the number of people they can have on the premises at one time. For a small store that may mean very few customers and even in larger stores you may have to wait in line.
It’s not only major retailers that allow you to shop online. Many local businesses have websites from which you can order and get home delivery or in-store pickup. Phone orders are also a way to avoid lines and crowding and to remain safe. And don’t forget gift cards. Stores will gladly send them to distant friends and relatives or you can stockpile them for future purchases.
What do we want our community to look like when this pandemic passes? We have an opportunity to help it continue to be the special, thriving place we all love. We can all do our part in making that happen by shopping local, and we can also help ourselves by shopping early.