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Think local this holiday shopping season

November 20, 2012

Inyo residents are being encouraged to shop locally on Small Business Saturday as a replacement for – or in addition to – their Black Friday and Cyber Monday holiday purchases. Shopping locally benefits the economy by supporting local businesses and paying into local sales taxes. Photo by Charles James

Big-box retailers have Black Friday, Internet companies have Cyber Monday and, for the past couple years, the little guy has had its own post-Thanksgiving/specially-designated shopping day to boost that bottom line before the end of the year.
Nationwide, Nov. 24 will be recognized as Small Business Saturday, a day where locally-owned, mom-and-pop shops are encouraged to offer their best deals and residents looking to get a jump on their holiday shopping are encouraged to patronize independently-owned businesses.
Small Business Saturday, since being conceived and kickstarted by American Express in 2010, is recognized on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving to increase commerce at brick and mortar businesses that are small and local.
According to the Associated Press, last year a record 226 million American shoppers visited stores and websites during the four-day holiday shopping weekend following Thanksgiving.
CNN financial analysts said total spending last year reached a record $52.4 billion, up 16 percent from 2010’s $45 billion.
According to a survey by the National Retail Federation last year, individual shoppers spent more, too. The NRF said the average holiday shopper shelled out $398.62, up from $365.34 in 2010.
With so many citizens throughout the U.S. spending so much money in the days following Thanksgiving, local civic leaders are hoping residents will consider giving locally-owned, small businesses a piece of the pie during the holiday shopping frenzy.
If the numbers cited by the NRF are applied locally, local business advocate Chuck Kilpatrick said, it could be a huge benefit to the economy of the Eastern Sierra.
According to the Owens Valley Contractors and Vendors Association, only 2 percent of sales made at big-box stores (e.g., Home Depot, Lowe’s) stays in the local community. For franchise stores, the percentage rises to 6 percent. But every single dollar spent at a locally-owned business not only stays in the community but turns over an estimated 11-16 times.
In Bishop, Spellbinder Books is planning a sale for Small Business Saturday and encouraging residents to shop at other local stores.
“If you buy just one more book from the local book store, it goes a long way,” said Allen Pietrasanta of the Sierra Business Council. “That dollar turns over in the local economy and the local merchants are here with their doors open to serve you, whereas the Internet merchants could be anywhere in the country.”
Bishop Chamber Director Tawni Thomson said buying locally is about more than just supporting residents who own businesses – but, by extension, supporting the charities and causes those businesses support.
“You’re helping not only a locally-owned business, but the economy,” Thomson said. “Local businesses give to the boosters clubs, ICARE (and other local groups) and that money gets re-invested over and over again.”
Thomson also said residents should consider where they spend because the sales tax on locally-purchased items help fund local government.
“Realistically, we know you can’t avoid the big chain stores completely, but if you do just 25 percent of your holiday shopping at locally- owned stores, it would make a big difference,” Thomson said. “And 25 percent requires very little effort.”
In Bishop residents have a handful of local retailers to choose from, such as Spellbinder Books, Anne Marie’s Kitchen, Radio Shack, Arrowhead Cycle and Eastern Sierra Motors, which provides gift certificates for maintenance, parts and Ford brand apparel (see ongoing in-paper Holiday Gift Guides on Thursdays and Saturdays for additional retailers).
There’s a host of local retailers at the southern end of the county as well, where Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kathleen New said the community thinks locally, celebrates family values and supports its citizens.
“We celebrate family, we make the holiday last,” New said about the weekend following Thanksgiving. “I’m not talking about the Chamber of Commerce, I’m talking about the people who live here, we shop locally.”
For those who expect to be recovering from a left-over turkey coma Saturday, New said the Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce is giving shoppers some time to recuperate – about three weeks – before it hosts a Courtyard Gallery Christmas Open House.
The shopping event will be held from 5-8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14 to give residents an opportunity to find locally- crafted Christmas presents for friends and families.
“It’s to promote local artwork, jewelry, pictures, gourds, hangings, dream- catchers,” New said. “It’s an opportunity to buy local and find a nice, locally-made gift instead of a gift from a big-box store.”
New said locally-made artwork is a great gift for former Inyo County residents, who always appreciate reminders of the Eastern Sierra.
In addition to Small Business Saturday, residents will have an opportunity to support the local economy Dec. 12 during the Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau’s Street of Lights event, where local businesses are encouraged to stay open late to allow residents who attended the Bishop Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony to enjoy an evening of local holiday shopping.
For the Street of Lights, the Chamber offers live music and a raffle to residents who visit multiple local businesses. The Bishop Volunteer Fire Department also provides warming fires along Main Street for the holiday shoppers.

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