Capital Region

Foss: Shop local this holiday season

Impressions window decorations on Broadway in Saratoga Springs on Wednesday, November 25, 2020.
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Impressions window decorations on Broadway in Saratoga Springs on Wednesday, November 25, 2020.

I hate shopping at the best of times.

And these are not the best of times. Since March, I’ve made even fewer shopping trips than usual.

With COVID once again on the rise in the Capital Region, I’ve been tempted to do all of my Christmas shopping online, and skip my annual flurry of gift buying at local stores.

It’s a temptation I’m going to resist.

Shopping locally is always important, and this year it’s even more important than ever.

Businesses are struggling, and small businesses, in particular, have been hammered by the pandemic.

According to a September analysis from the business review site Yelp, nearly 100,000 American businesses have permanently shut down since the pandemic began. Especially hard hit are the restaurant and retail industries, with every week bringing news of new closures and temporary pauses in service.

Christmas shopping usually provides a boost to local stores, but the post-Thanksgiving shopping data suggests that fewer people are shopping online or in-person, and that this will be a tough holiday season for the thousands of retailers just struggling to get by.

Meanwhile, Amazon reported record holiday sales, capping off what was already shaping up to be a banner year for the e-commerce giant. According to one analysis, 42 cents of every dollar spent this holiday season could go to Amazon, up from 36 cents last year.

That’s sobering news for those of us who value small local businesses and believe they’re a big part of what makes our communities unique, vital and interesting.

Amazon’s increasing dominance and the ongoing economic slump have made me determined to shop at local, independent stores this year, and I’d encourage others to find ways to support the Capital Region’s business community, if they haven’t already.

For those uncomfortable going into physical stores, many retailers now offer online shopping and curbside pick-up. Gift certificates are also an easy way to spend money with local businesses.

Of course, if you’re like me, you might find it difficult to shop for others without doing a little browsing.

That’s why I plan to take a day off and go shopping on a weekday morning, when stores are less busy.

According to a recent CNBC report, in-store traffic fell by 52.1 percent on Black Friday compared with 2019. That might be bad for stores, but it bodes well for those of us seeking a safer shopping experience.

It’s hard to avoid using Amazon during the holiday season – I recently used the site to track down DVDs of old Western films to give to my father for Christmas – but there are some alternatives that are worth checking out.

I always do some Christmas shopping at local bookstores, but I’ve also started using Bookshop.org, an ecommerce startup company that provides financial support to local, independent bookstores.

Another site I like is Bandcamp, which sells music, but gives a higher percentage of revenue back to the musicians featured there than a streaming giant like Spotify.

It would be easy for me to buy all my Christmas presents on Amazon, while seated on my couch.

But I don’t want to do that.

I want to shop locally and support local businesses and entrepreneurs, and I hope others do the same.

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.

Categories: News, Sara Foss

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