Shop local for holidays

By By Logan Campbell

By Logan Campbell

This holiday season, consider locally owned Utah businesses first. Instead of increasing the profits of national chain retailers, you can help our economy a lot more by diverting even just a fraction of your spending toward local shops.

Civic Economics, an economic analysis group, concluded in a study of San Francisco that if consumers diverted only 10 percent of their spending away from national chains and into local businesses, 1,300 new jobs would be created each year and local wealth would increase by $200 million.

Salt Lake City is a smaller market, but surely the effects would be comparably beneficial, or even more if we were to divert more than 10 percent.

On its Web site, non-profit group Local First Utah says that “local and independent businesses generate more than three times the return to our local economies than do national chain stores.”

It makes sense8212;folks running local businesses give a lot back to the community. Much of their profits are spent here, and they are often better employers. National chains normally hire non-local marketing, design, legal and accounting firms, while local companies are more likely to keep that spending here. Larger corporations put their funds into non-local banks, factories and headquarters almost exclusively outside of Utah or even the country.

Buying local is often a better choice for the environment as well. A Web site such as Amazon might help you find a lower price for your items, but the packages are shipped in airplanes and trucks that burn fossil fuels, when the same item was already waiting on a shelf somewhere down the street. It becomes a major pollutant to ship so many redundant products all around the nation.

As local shops go out of business, what we’re left with is a couple of big box choices that offer the same selection. Borders and Barnes & Noble, for example, are practically the same store with different color schemes. You might think they have all the books you would ever want to choose from, but if you went to a place like Sam Weller’s Zion Bookstore or Utah Book & Magazine, you would probably find that’s not the case.

If presidential debates are an accurate barometer for what is most important to Americans, many will agree (although I hate to rehash this obnoxious but accurate phrase that Sens. McCain and Obama obliterated) that Main Street needs help right now. Indeed, downtown Salt Lake City’s Main Street, or what’s left of it, is for the most part a dreary road with several boarded-up shop spaces. And all the quirkiness we loved Sugar House for is now a demolished pit waiting to become more chain stores that will have the same products found at hundreds of other places in the valley.

This is not the fault of “evil corporations” but of the American shopper who has created the demand for chains. We choose expensive name-brand clothing or cheap clothing that won’t last, overpriced Starbucks Coffee that’s consistent but ordinary, unastonishing meals and places where we know exactly what we’re going to get, even if what we get is poor service and ravenous customers.

Since materialism seems unavoidable, I wish Utahns would choose local shops so that the materials we surround ourselves with would be more interesting and unique. With national retailers, everything is becoming so standardized that the only individuality in our possession becomes the particular combination each person has of the same things everyone else has.

If your disdain with the recession is less romantic than mine and is more about the dollar signs, you will nevertheless agree with me to try shopping locally this holiday because it generates more wealth for your community. If you also agree that the standardization of our goods is a cultural tragedy, even better.

If you disagree entirely, have fun with whatever the big box ad told you to buy, and don’t spend those couple of bucks you “saved” all at one chain.

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Logan Campbell