Why Shopping Local Beats Online Deals and Big Box Stores

Deciding what to get everyone on your holiday shopping list isn’t the hardest choice you have to make this season. First, you have to decide when and where you’ll shop to find the best deals on the perfect gifts. Will you shop malls, chains and big box stores, order gifts online, or look for more local flair?

I usually start my Christmas shopping after Thanksgiving. I try to buy most of my gifts locally, or I make them if time permits. I have to say, though, that the more I walk past The W Gallery’s neighboring stores inside the 5th Street Arcades in Downtown Cleveland, the more gift ideas I get for the people on my list. The variety of the shops makes it easy to shop local for just about anyone.

Holiday shopping stats

Black Friday kicks off the holiday shopping season for most consumers, but buying behaviors are quickly changing. According to a holiday shopping survey by SAS, fewer people plan to hit the stores on Thanksgiving Day this year — 17% compared to 25% last year. Millennials are 41% more likely than older shoppers to spend Black Friday shopping.

Cyber Monday has actually dropped in popularity, too. Only 38% of consumers plan to surf the web for online bargains this year, down from 53% in 2014. As easy as it is to shop online from home in your post-Thanksgiving slump, people still prefer in-store purchases to online shopping, because there’s something powerful about holding a product in your hands before it ends up under the tree.

Overall, consumers plan to spend at least as much — or more — than they did last year. Most of them (68%) will shop at discount retailers, 59% at online e-tailers, 53% at department stores, 41% at specialty retailers, 28% at warehouses, 23% at dollar stores, and 23% at local boutiques.

Shop local, buy special

The number of local boutique shoppers is on the rise, since Small Business Saturday started up five years ago. American Express launched the event, which is now a national observance, to drive holiday traffic to local shops. Last year, more than 88.5 million people shopped local on Small Business Saturday (up from nearly 74 million in 2012), spending an estimated $14.3 billion.  

This Saturday, November 28, is a chance to shop small and find unique, locally made gifts for the special people on your list — all while supporting your local economy. Studies have found that locally owned stores generate greater benefits for the local economy than national chains; on average, independent retailers return up to three times as much money. Buying remotely on the web, on the other hand, creates practically no local benefits, besides a few minutes’ work for a local delivery person.

If every family in the U.S. spent an extra $10 a month on locally owned independent businesses instead of national chains, according to this infographic, more than $9.3 billion would come back to the local economy. That could make a Merry Christmas for a lot of Clevelanders.

Winterfest Setup 2015

Winterfest Setup 2015

Think of it on a smaller scale. Simply looking at it from the perspective of your gift recipients, would they rather receive unique, handmade gifts that can only be found in local shops around Cleveland, Ohio, or commodities that can be mass-produced and purchased readily at any chain store in any mall in America?

The 5th Street Arcades are celebrating Small Business Saturday with Winterfest on Nov. 28, featuring special local vendors in addition to discounts at more than 45 shops located here. Visit The W Gallery to browse our selection of fine jewelry, photography, glass and ceramics; and while you’re here, drop by our neighbors to find unique Christmas gifts like vintage barware from Happy Hour Collection, handcrafted paper flowers from Love, Anji, and specialty sweets from Chocolate 76. Cleveland’s small businesses have plenty to offer the special people on your Christmas list.

Where will you buy your holiday gifts this year?