By Pauline Kerr
The number of days to finish Christmas shopping is dwindling at a speed that puts Santa’s magic reindeer to shame.
Instead of making a desperate trip to the city in search of gifts – white-knuckle driving, indigestion, searching for that elusive parking spot within walking distance of the mall entrance, and paying too much for gas, this is the time to support our local retailers.
Shopping locally is a win for everyone at the best of times, and this year, as we emerge from going on two years of a global pandemic, it is more important than ever.
Owners of small businesses who have been holding on by a thread are depending on the next few weeks to erase a lot of red ink. Many of us are planning gatherings of some sort for the first time in too long, and will be doing some real shopping for decorations, gifts and holiday treats. Our local retailers are just as aware of this as are the operators of city supermalls.
There is a misconception local shops have less selection and higher prices, when the opposite is true. Without city rents and overhead, the owner of a local shop might offer very competitive prices. And the selection is often better. A retailer ordering only a handful of each item can afford to take chances where a big-box store ordering thousands of a single item, cannot.
The local retailer will also take community interests into consideration – hats and mittens in the colours of the high school, for example, and often puts in orders with specific customers in mind.
Many of us have had the experience of trudging through a city mall, whining children in tow, and returning frustrated and exhausted, only to find exactly what we were looking for in a store just down the street.
Many of us have also enjoyed the experience of buying gifts at small shops when we go on vacation – gifts that are treasured by those fortunate enough to receive them.
Perhaps we could try being tourists in our own home town – plan a shopping expedition that includes lunch at a nice restaurant and a visit to an art gallery or market. We might top off the day by driving around to view our neighbours’ holiday lights and enjoying a drink of hot chocolate or apple cider – no need to worry about a two-hour drive through those pretty snowflakes sparkling in the headlights. Instead, we can wrap the unique treasures we found and place them under the tree, ready for the big day.
Of course, we are probably short of time, making shopping locally a Christmas gift to ourselves. Picking up an item on lunch break or while the kids are at hockey practice gives us opportunity to enjoy the best part of holiday shopping – chatting with friends in our favourite local stores.
The truth is, our local retailers are our friends. They are the people we go to when our service club is holding a fundraiser, or the team needs a place to sell 50/50 tickets. Their kids play with our kids. They coach minor sports, contribute to the church rummage sale and are always eager to pitch in when there is a community event.
We want them to succeed; they are our neighbours, an integral part of our community. They help ensure this town remains vibrant and welcoming, the kind of place where we want to live, work and play, and where we want to raise our children.
Just as we look to them for support, they look to us. COVID-19 has been hard on everyone, whether we are teens who are trying to get dreams of college or a sports scholarship back on track; health-care heroes who looked after the community in the most desperate of times; workers finally enjoying a return to full-time employment; or operators of small businesses whose post-pandemic Christmas wishes centre on happy customers, and plenty of them.
Driving to the city or shopping close to home? The choice is easy.