ST. GEORGE – If standing in line in front of a national retail store doesn’t appeal to you or if you’ve gotten the madness of Black Friday shopping out of your system, a statewide program and local chambers of commerce are encouraging shoppers to spend their holiday gift dollars in local stores.
Shift Your Spending week runs from Nov. 27 through Dec. 5 and is designed to encourage local consumers to make buying from local merchants a habit that will last all year long.
“If every household in Utah shifted just 10 percent of annual spending towards locally-owned businesses, $1.3 billion would stay in our state’s economy,” said Kristen Lavelett, executive director of Local First Utah.
Local First Utah is a nonprofit organization started in 2006 that is dedicated to educating the public, government and business owners about the value and vitality of locally-owned businesses.
“Data indicates when citizens are aware of the economic impact of buying locally and they know who is local, they will shift their spending towards those locals,” Lavelett said. “We’re almost stating the obvious. People know when you buy locally it is better, but I think they don’t know how much better it is. They don’t know how profound the impact is.”
In 2013, Local First Utah commissioned a study that found in Utah, for every $100 spent at a locally-owned business, $55.14 stays in the local economy. By comparison, for every $100 spent at a big box retailer or a chain store, only about $13.60 stays local.
Money spent locally continues to circulate in our economy to support and create jobs and fund schools, public safety and infrastructure.
The Shift Your Spending campaign is just part of the work Local First Utah does all year long.
“We have a statewide initiative to encourage people to buy from locally-owned, independent businesses. We accomplish that through an educational campaign, and through a marketing campaign,” Lavelett said. “We work to encourage businesses to use some of our marketing materials and our branding materials to co-brand and amplify their voice.”
The group also provides businesses with materials for other national shopping campaigns such as Small Business Saturday.
Cedar City Chamber of Commerce began working with the group this year, after running its own ‘buy local’ program for a number of years.
“We felt like it was a good time to work with them because a lot of people across the state, as the program gets more and more well-known, they’ll look for that sign, the Buy Local First Utah” sign and know that they’re having a positive impact,” said Chris McCormick, chamber president.
McCormick said he believes most Southern Utah residents want to shop locally but need to know which businesses are truly local. He praised the Local First Utah site for its local business listings and the exposure it brings to independent merchants. The organization and its marketing tools help the chamber continue its mission.
“Working together does make it more successful for everybody,” he said. “That’s what a chamber is really all about is helping each other out.”
Cedar City business owner and state Sen. Evan Vickers said shop local campaigns have a clear, positive effect on his downtown businesses.
“When we can promote a small business like ours specifically on a particular day, it always adds significantly to the sales,” he said, “but it also helps attract people that may not even have come downtown before. They may come down and see our store and fall in love with it and come back.”
For Vickers, promoting local businesses means preserving a way of life. He said:
When you talk about a downtown like Cedar City or other similar communities, you’re usually talking about smaller businesses that are owned by individuals that are hometown-type businesses. They’re not the big box stores. That’s what drives that whole uniqueness of your downtown. I can testify that when you have a strong, vibrant downtown with those types of businesses, it does increase the quality of life of all your citizens because it’s something they can be proud of, it’s a place to gather.
Sharing the quality of life a town has to offer is something Greg Aldred, past president of the Hurricane Valley chamber, is passionate about. He wants shoppers to consider splurging on gifts that can only be found in Hurricane.
“You could book a trip to Zion (National Park), or an off-road experience. You could participate in buying a new mountain bike and ride the trail,” he said. “There’s just so many wonderful businesses here that have a uniqueness. You could sign up for parachuting. Now that’s got to be the ultimate gift.”
Aldred said buying from an independent local business is also a great way to show respect and appreciation for the long hours and hard work it takes to run a business and the gesture may not go unappreciated.
“All the successful people I know always give back to their community,” he said. “So if we support them, it’s like you’re investing in your own city, county and even the state.”
- Shift Your Spending Campaign
- St. George Chamber of Commerce
- Cedar City Chamber of Commerce
- Hurricane Valley Chamber of Commerce
- Washington City Chamber of Commerce
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