Featured Stories

'Keep It Local' this holiday season

Over the last decade, it seems each year the Christmas holiday season begins earlier and earlier. A recent trip to a shopping center just days after the conclusion of Halloween was greeted with Bing Cosby’s “White Christmas” being piped through an outdoor speaker system, ushering in waves of mall-goers with the clear intention of filling their heads with the kind of shop-shop-shop frenzy only the expensive, full-blitz marketing campaigns national retail chains can excite.

This is not haphazard holiday hype-building. Numerous studies have shown the psychological effect that occurs in consumers who are confronted with holiday music and décor in a shopping environment. There is a range of emotional states being fluffed to evoke a desired “Stimulus-Organism-Response paradigm,” a term coined by psychologist Robert S. Woodworth as far back as 1928, and one still used to help explain consumer behavior. Find the correct stimuli (music, décor, media saturation) and apply it to the largest group of organisms (i.e. shoppers) and the response — the flow of consumer dollars — will follow.

In fact, 57 percent of those who celebrate the holidays had already started shopping by early November, up from 54 percent last year and 49 percent in 2008, according to the National Retail Foundation.

Over the next five weeks, the dip-your-toes-in approach from large retailers will turn into a crashing, multi-billion-dollar wave of advertising messages and a bombardment of competing promotions, all with the intention of earning your considerable holiday dollar. As Black Friday rolls around next week, national and regional media outlets are likely to switch their focus from pressing world events to images of hardcore deal-seekers camping out in front of big box stores on Thanksgiving night — or even the evening prior — and the ensuing aftermath of pandemonium when the floodgates open.

In advance of that assault, we are promoting a more sensible, if not quite so glitzy and superficially “arousing,” alternative to the increasingly common national tradition of running the big-box gauntlet alongside hordes of berserker shoppers on Black Friday: “Keep It Local.”

The holiday season triggers the most consumer activity of the year. Many small businesses rely on holiday shoppers to flip their account ledgers from red to black during the season. If you want to support your community and invest in your neighbors and relatives living and working in south Columbia County, the best thing you can do is keep your dollar local.

The “Keep It Local” message — now being promoted by the South Columbia County Chamber of Commerce (see ad on page A21 in this week's Spotlight) as a campaign that launches with Small Business Saturday on Saturday, Nov. 28 — should resonate with anyone who has sensed a slippage of our national and cultural consumer values over the past few decades. It’s a chance to pick up the sword and battle back against the mega-corporation hegemony that has taken over just about every city in America. Just look around. Nearly every small town in Oregon is a mimic of the same goods and services offered by its neighbors, with the same branded storefronts lining the main thoroughfares.

A 2012 Indie Impact Study Series survey by Civics Economics,’ arguably one of the leading voices in the exploration of how shopping local keeps a greater percentage of advertising dollars in the community, revealed that purchases at local businesses result in a 48 percent recirculation flow of revenue back into the community, versus only a 14 percent recirculation rate for purchases at large national chains. When it comes to restaurants, revenue is recirculated at a 64.9 percent rate for every dollar spent at an independent restaurant, versus a 30.4 percent recirculation rate for each dollar spent at a national restaurant chain.

As the Civics Economics website explains, the five main economic advantages independent businesses have over chains are:

• Greater employment per dollar of revenue

• Local ownership keeps profits in the community

• Use of local business support services

• Greater likelihood to use locally made products

• Greater share of revenue used for charitable giving

Of course, we realize the almost irresistible allure of purchasing big-ticket, high-in-demand items at chain establishments, especially considering the huge discounts offered during the holiday season and the fact those chains, by now, have largely driven any competing, locally owned business out of town. It wouldn’t be fair to begrudge anyone for taking advantage of a good deal when it comes along.

Most of us likely shop, and will continue to shop, at big box stores on a routine basis.

All the same, we strongly encourage our readers to make it a point this holiday season to “Keep It Local.” Perhaps commit a percentage of your total holiday shopping budget to be spent at locally owned stores. If there is something in particular you’re looking for, or you are unfamiliar with the full range of goods and services locally available, please take a solid look at the numerous offers and promotions from south Columbia County businesses presented in this week’s Spotlight, and read Spotlight reporter Nicole Thill’s story, “Events planned locally for Small Business Saturday." We also suggest contacting the South Columbia County Chamber of Commerce and learning more about its “Keep it Local” campaign.

Your investment in your local business community is an investment in your future, and the future of generations to come. By keeping it local, you are doing what is needed for south Columbia County businesses — and, indeed, the fundamental belief and values at the foundation of small businesses everywhere, to survive.