Many local Occupy movements have put out a "Buy Nothing" statement for Black Friday. has a different idea. Paige Scott explains.
Last year, the average shopper spent $343 on Black Friday weekend, according to the National Retail Federation. This year, let's use our dollars to enrich our communities, rather than corporate CEOs at distant company headquarters.
In this spirit, Occupy Redwood City asks you to join us in patronizing local, independently-owned businesses this holiday season.
There are many reasons why. While these businesses may seem small, together they're a major employer, and they keep more money in our communities than corporations do. A study commissioned by the nonprofit organization LocalFirst found that for every $100 spent, local businesses put $73 back into the local economy, while other businesses put back $43.
The difference does add up.
It's also been found that local mom-and-pop businesses help out more with local causes, keep our towns interesting and vibrant, and make people want to visit and explore our neighborhoods. When you go on vacation, do you want to visit or Best Buy?
While independent businesses can typically be found in walkable downtown areas and public transportation corridors, big-box chains often accompany decentralized sprawl.
It’s not hard to buy local. Gift certificates for local services are an easy, practical choice for anyone on your list. The options are basically limitless, from massages, dog-walking, auto detailing, and restaurant meals, to haircuts, gardening, and interior decorating. As a bonus, these gifts won't become clutter, and unlike most gifts, you'll be able to find out whether the person cutting your mom's hair or mowing your friend's lawn was paid a decent wage and treated fairly.
Let's not forget Bay Area craftspeople, either. Handmade gifts can certainly be affordable as well as memorable; let's encourage the people who make items here in America rather than the companies that ship jobs overseas. Check out a local gallery or craft fair. A variety of organizations are hosting holiday fairs, from KPFA Radio to Deborah's Palm, a women's center in Palo Alto. For out-of-town relatives, try sending them one of the many unique food items made in the Bay Area.
If you'd rather shop online, etsy.com/local is one portal for finding handmade goods from local people. Occupy Redwood City doesn't endorse any particular business, and we encourage you to do your own research and keep an eye out for events near you.
Thrift stores are yet another option. Many of them are local in nature and either are charities themselves or support area charities. (For instance, the San Mateo Goodwill store is part of the locally-run Goodwill of San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin Counties). A sizeable number of thrift store items are new. But thrift stores are also a great place to score “finds” – musical instruments, collectibles, tools and more. There are a large number of informative blog posts about how to thrift effectively; search "how to thrift" or "thrifting tips" online to find them.
For people who truly have everything, donate to a local nonprofit in their honor. In difficult economic times, nonprofits struggle to serve more people with fewer resources, and nonprofits are also employers who contribute to the local economy. If you need help choosing a charity, Charitynavigator.org is a good place to search organizations and find out how they spend your donations. Here in Redwood City, the Fire Department/PAL is a great option for those looking to give.
Our holiday gift-buying may seem inconsequential, but whenever we spend money, we're making a statement. Many local Occupy movements have put out a "Buy Nothing" statement for Black Friday, and while we of Occupy Redwood City appreciate the sentiment of keeping our money out of the hands of mega-corporations, we would prefer to take the opportunity Black Friday gives us to spotlight our local mom-and-pop businesses and urge consumers to direct their dollars in that direction. Together we can make a difference, and have fun while doing it (this is about shopping, after all!).
Local small businesses are also far less likely to take part in the new 'Black Thursday' or midnight opening phenomenon that many large retail corporations are implementing this week in order to cash in on consumers as soon as possible while robbing their workers of a guaranteed holiday."
Occupy Redwood City would like to urge you to make your life a little easier: Don't go to Wal-Mart at midnight. Sleep in, have a leisurely breakfast, and then … buy local.