Every winter the holiday season seems to get more and more commercialized, with corporate greed seeming to trump common sense and the whole holidays bringing people together idea. This concept is not lost on many people, as evidenced by the recent Occupy movement, as well as just conversations I have had with various friends and family members. As a retail worker, I was surprised at how dead my store was on Black Friday, but it seems most of downtown Savannah experienced a slower than usual start to the holiday shopping season. Even now, during what should be a very busy time of year in our store, it is slow enough for the company to cut back on our hours.
Clearly the current economic situation faced by many citizens is affecting the turnout in popular downtown destinations, but maybe people are just tired of all the commotion of the holidays. But this really got me thinking, maybe there is another reason keeping people from shopping on Broughton Street. Because downtown Savannah is filled with many small and independently owned businesses, they cannot offer the same pricing options that entice customers into the larger big-box retailers. I don’t know what the answer is, and I am not writing this as any kind of political statement, it’s more just my own observations of my local surroundings and the current economic climate across the nation.
This year I plan to do all of my holiday shopping in local stores for a few reasons. First, I have always been in support of local business and keeping basic principles of the ‘American Dream’ going for future generations. I believe that anyone who wants to be an entrepreneur should have the opportunity to flourish without the threat of retail giants crushing their chances to make a living doing something they love. Second, finds in these downtown shops are more unique and can usually be of better quality than their ‘Made in China’ counterparts. That’s not to say everything sold in the larger stores is pure crap and vice versa, but just in general this is how I see it. Since the rest of my family lives in Maryland, I want to bring them something back that is special to Savannah. I just really like the idea of still only getting things made in certain places, things that make a place stand out. Finally, I just prefer the atmosphere of smaller shops where the owners are usually on hand and even if not, there are people who are highly knowledgable about the products in the stores. It just feels more personal and being in these stores brings about a connection to the community.
Supporting small businesses is good for the economy even if it does not seem like it on the surface. Shopping at Walmart is not something I do any time of the year, but even if you can save money there, what is the greater cost? Walmart employees are among America’s working poor and if the corporation did not decrease the probability for small businesses to thrive, these workers might find better paying jobs with local entrepreneurs. It’s not just Walmart, this is merely one example. It is very difficult to get by as a modern American without having to shop and eat at any big box stores or chain restaurants/retailers, etc. but if I can make at least a little bit of a difference, then I’m all for it.