As you prepare for your much-deserved winter break and, no doubt, begin holiday shopping for your loved ones, I would ask you to please keep in mind the importance of buying locally. Be it products produced in Philadelphia or sold from independently owned shops in the city, nothing is more important to our economy than local commerce.
THE DOLLARS TELL YOU SO
An economic policy analysis done in Austin, Texas in 2002 revealed that out of every $100 spent at a local businesses, $45 stayed in the local economy, versus $13 at chain retailers. This comes in part from the trickle-down effect from giving money to someone who is based in a particular area. Dollars you spend at local businesses go to pay that business owner’s and his employees’ salaries.
There is no out-of-state boss managing the store — local business owners usually live at or near where they work. They are also more likely to buy from smaller, local suppliers for goods they need for their business, as opposed to giant national supply chains used by corporately- owned stores.
Local entrepreneurs are also three times more likely to support neighborhood groups or non-profits in their area than chain businesses that have no connection to the neighborhood where they are based, according to the Sustainability Business Network of Greater Philadelphia. Small businesses also comprise the largest employment bloc in Philadelphia, providing more jobs as a whole than the entire larger companies put together.
SMALL BUSINESSES DEFINE
But beyond simple statistics lies something else, something more intangible, but much more important.
Every big city like Philadelphia thrives on a diverse collection of small businesses. It’s what makes us special and unique as an urban center. You can go anywhere in the nation and find bland boulevards with a couple of boxy chain stores or chain restaurants. It feels like any other number of bland, boxy streets across the country and has the same products and the same food.
On a city street, you never know what to expect. Our commercial streets are dotted with a huge array of small shops, restaurants and bars. Some gaudy, some reserved, some exotic, others parochial, some amazingly good, and, of course, some just plain bad. But whatever the qualities of the store itself, it’s this diversity that makes cities identifiable; it’s what gives us a sense of place. It’s a huge reason many people come to visit cities in the first place.
But this fantastic, defining eclecticism is largely dependent on people like you and me, average citizens of Philadelphia. Without the support of its home community, many smaller shops just can’t get by.
Buy Local Philly, an organization of local businesses, in conjunction with the SBN, is planning a special holiday shopping week from Dec. 3 to 9, with a number of promotional events and sales at various stores around the city. I highly recommend using SBN’s search engine (https://www.sbnphiladelphia.org/marketplace) to find local stores for your holiday shopping. This is the most important time of the year for a lot of shops in the city, so help make it a prosperous holiday season for your local business owner.
Ryan Briggs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.