Martinez: Three reasons to shop small this holiday season
The holiday shopping season is an important time for small businesses. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

    The holiday season will look different across the U.S. this year. Rising prices are hitting wallets hard and nearly a third of Americans plan to spend less on gifts and decor.

    At the same time, local businesses are still recovering from the pandemic’s economic impacts, while also balancing supply chain challenges and a slowing economy. There is no doubt San Jose’s small businesses need extra support this year, with 80% of small businesses reporting the 2022 holiday season is more critical to their overall financial health than last year.

    Luckily, shopping small isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s also better for finding something unique for that special person on your list, helping the environment and supporting the local economy.

    One of the most intangible benefits to buying from local small businesses is finding the perfect gift for your friends and family. Independent retailers, in person or online, have the time and expertise to provide personalized recommendations and can tailor the gift to your specifications or provide a local flair. Guides like Holiday San Jose and California Shop Small make it easy to find a unique gift.

    Shopping small can be a small gift to Mother Earth. In 2020, Amazon produced almost 600 million pounds of plastic waste; nearly 23.5 million pounds of this waste ended up in waterways and oceans. Plastic use at local businesses is significantly less than that of big box stores and online retailers, especially if you bring your own bag and deny unnecessary wrapping.

    You can also cut down on the emissions and reduce congestion associated with “last-mile delivery,” especially if you group your errands together or walk or bike rather than go by car. Easier commutes and cleaner air benefit the environment and your community.

    Spending your holiday dollars at small businesses is a gift to your community. These businesses are the backbone of vibrant communities, and when you shop local you’re investing in the strength of those communities. California in particular has a thriving culture of entrepreneurship and San Jose is home to about 58,000 small businesses.

    A study of local shopping found that for every $100 spent at a local retailer, $73 stays in the community, almost 70% more than a national retailer. Small business owners spend their profits at other local small businesses and give back to the communities that sustain them. An analysis by the SCORE Association shows small businesses are 250% more likely to make donations to local nonprofits than larger businesses.

    Buying your holiday goods online might avoid some sales taxes, but the taxes you spend at your local mom-and-pop shop are filtered back into the schools, roads and other community institutions and services you rely on.

    Additionally, when you shop at independent retailers, you create good jobs for your neighbors. Small businesses in San Jose employ 402,000 workers. According to an analysis by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, independent brick-and-mortar retailers create 47 jobs per $10 million of revenue. Amazon creates less than half that total with 19 jobs. Plus, entrepreneurs who run small and micro businesses are closer to the people who work for them. Many rose through the ranks and work closely with their employees, which aligns their workers’ success with the success of their business.

    Localizing your holiday spending embodies the holiday spirit and is a gift that is more valuable than the dollars you spend. When we shop small, we support resilient communities, fight environmental damage and show those around us that we care. Let’s make this a true season of giving.

    Carolina Martinez is CEO of CAMEO, a statewide micro-business network and voice for businesses with one to five employees.

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