Point of No Return — Shopping local a key part of the holidays

Date Published: 
December 1, 2017

People across these fruited plains have been sharpening their elbows and undergoing surgeries to have their common decency removed from their souls. Politics again? Nah.

Christmas shopping.

I don’t do “Black Friday.” My idea of enjoying the day after Thanksgiving is to sleep in, casually rub the sleep out of my well-rested eyes as I stumble down the hallway and call the bathroom scale “a filthy, rotten liar.” What it does not involve is waking up in the middle of the night to get into a cold car and go wage battle with a bunch of equally-tired people in a life-threatening struggle to get the perfect deal.

I get that some people see this almost as sport — that it’s you against the masses in an epic struggle to obtain the most presents possible while keeping to that holiday budget. I also get curling as a sport — but I’m not going to jump out on a sheet of ice with a little broom while people yell at me to sweep faster. Let’s file it under “personal preference.”

And maybe Black Friday is seeing a shift. I read in a news report this week that more people shopped online than joined the brick-and-mortar mayhem of the day-after-Thanksgiving this year, and I confess that I took care of a good bit of my own Christmas shopping on Cyber Monday.

Hey, there are plenty of good deals out there online, particularly on Cyber Monday, and you don’t have to put on pants to take advantage of them. Editor’s note: You should indeed put on pants if you are making some of these purchases from your office computer during working hours. Just trust me on that.

Wedged between Black Friday and Cyber Monday is Small Business Saturday, the brainchild of non-small-business American Express. The credit card behemoth has joined with its small-business partners to put an emphasis on the “Main Street” stores over the box stores, and the movement has seemingly picked up steam every year. I spoke with one small-business owner this week who said he definitely had more business on Saturday than he did Friday, and he had a pretty good Black Friday.

Hey, if we can get our local stores having two great shopping days on the heels of Thanksgiving instead of just one, well, that’s a win, right?

It sure is for our direct area. This isn’t Salisbury or Rehoboth as far as having big, national stores dot our landscape. Oh, we have a few up on Route 113, and we’re happy to have them, as they employ lots of people and offer convenience to consumers on our community. But as you travel through our beach towns, up and down Routes 26 and 54, and through the downtowns of our small inland towns, what do you normally find?

Small businesses, owned and operated by our neighbors, relatives and friends. Many of these business owners risked everything to get started on their dreams, took out second mortgages on their homes to get things off the ground and toil away hour after hour trying to provide goods and services that best fit the people who live and work in our little slice of Heaven by the shore.

They participate in Chambers of Commerce, sit beside us in church and pick up their kids from the bus stop. They are fully invested in this community — financially and emotionally. They donate to Little League and various fundraisers, offer jobs to others in the area and actively participate in things that effect all of us. Remember when everyone was complaining about the progress of the road work project on Route 26? Well, it was a string of local business owners who consistently met with DelDOT and shared the community’s concerns and gripes.

Small businesses are a major part of the fabric of this community — along with our churches, schools and emergency responders. We give people directions by using unique stores and restaurants as landmarks, and we can often judge the economic health of a town or neighborhood by how many of the small stores are either vacant or filled.

Small businesses are truly the backbone of the economic health of our area.

Again, I’m not trying to denigrate larger businesses. They are able to buy in bulk, providing cheaper prices to families in a time when cheaper prices are most welcomed, and they provide comfort to consumers in terms of you-always-know-what-you’ll-get there. I mentioned earlier that they employ a lot of people, and they also give us venues to get items that just might not be available at smaller shops. Nothing but love for big businesses here, particularly in retail and food services.

But we also need small businesses, and we need to support small businesses. This is not exclusive to our community, either. When you visit Manhattan, do you hope to go to a chain restaurant for dinner, or hit a New York hotspot? When you got to Philadelphia, do you get a cheesesteak from a franchise, or do you hit Pat’s, Geno’s or Jim’s?

Shopping at and supporting small businesses not only helps maintain the character of a community, it helps the economic viability of a community. Spend your money there and it does not travel to another state, or nation, for that corporation’s headquarters. It stays here. It goes to another local business. It goes to Pop Warner uniforms or gymnastics classes. And that money, in turn, goes to other local businesses, or River Soccer or dance lessons.

Look, holiday shopping is a pain in the... it’s a pain. You often have to mix box stores, Internet deals and hitting local shops to make it all work. I know I do. But let’s not forget that “local” part as we get caught up in the rush. Think local. Buy local. We all benefit from that.