Shop Local!

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The weekend after Thanksgiving has just about risen to the level of being it’s own holiday. A unique American holiday devoted to spending money.

It all started with the Friday after Thanksgiving, Black Friday. At one time getting a 6am start on holiday shopping was early enough, but no more. The last few years, several stores have begun Black Friday sales on Thursday, which would make them Thanksgiving Day sales. And that trend will continue as long as enough shoppers drop their forks and head to the mall on Thanksgiving Day.

Stay tuned because the way this is going, soon, Black Friday is going to start on Wednesday. Or maybe we’ll just skip that pesky Halloween to Thanksgiving period and start them on November 1st. Wait! Some stores have begun offering Black Friday deals all month long, so that has already happened.

Seriously, a good portion of the retail world depends on holiday shopping at the end of the year to boost their bottom line. Black Friday came first. Then came Cyber Monday when online businesses noticed an increase in orders that day, as workers returned to their offices and computers after the Thanksgiving weekend. Back in the old days, kids, many people had computers only at work. Online companies jumped on this opportunity and began promoting online sales on Cyber Monday.

Lost in all this shopping frenzy focused on big box stores and online merchants are the local small businesses. Decades ago, as retail business was migrating from small local stores to malls and big box stores, the “shop local” effort was born, with varying degrees of success.

Then in 2010 American Express created Small Business Saturday. Situated between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday encourages holiday shoppers to patronize brick and mortar businesses that are small and local. They promote it, they provide marketing materials, whether your business accepts Amex cards or not.

What a great idea!

We’re bombarded by TV and radio ads to shop at the big stores or online, it’s refreshing to see an effort to draw people back into their own community to shop.

Islanders know how important supporting their own community is to the health of the community. Sure, we’d like to draw visitors and shoppers to our island from far and wide, but the base of our business enterprise is local support. And the vast majority of our businesses are owned by Islanders, your neighbors.

We recognize this during the summer months when visitors thin out. We should remember it now during the holiday shopping season.

Everybody says they want to support their local community. But how?

Buy from local businesses. It’s as easy as that. Even if you commit to buying half of your holiday purchases locally, you will be making a huge difference.

Our own Beach community has an abundance of shopping options; most don’t even require going over the bridge. Right here in our community, you can give the experience of a sunset cruise or a Paddleboarding lesson; a day fishing or a day at the spa; a kayak tour or a jet-ski experience; a massage or a mani-pedi; an oil change or a house cleaning.

If you want to wrap up a gift, check out any of our excellent gift stores. They’re filled with unique and clever gifts that you won’t find in the big box stores. We have clothing stores, jewelry stores, hardware stores and ship’s stores. Our local artisan markets offer unique gift ideas and support local artists also.

All of them would really appreciate your business this holiday season.

We also have a collection of very interesting bars and restaurants, most of which sell even more interesting and colorful t-shirts, hats and other souvenirs.

So before you succumb to the allure of the crazy pricing on the big box loss leaders, stop and put a price on the importance of supporting local businesses.

You can skip the dawn shopping patrol this holiday season and saunter into a local store to pick out a truly unique gift for those on your list.

Doesn’t that sound much more pleasant?

And when you’re tired from all that shopping, take a break and enjoy a local meal here on the beach, watch a sunset and remember to tip that hard-working local server-now that’s keeping your spending local!

You’ll find plenty of great ideas for shopping local in the December SAND LIFE magazine. It is chock-full of great ideas for everyone on your holiday list, plus a complete list of all the fun activities and live music right here on Fort Myers Beach!

Shop local – this week and every week!

Missy Layfield