A few years ago a Progress employee made the mistake of doing her last-minute shopping on Barrett Parkway the weekend before Christmas. The traffic was a gnarled mess of red brake lights that snaked down the off-ramp and didn’t putter out until several hundred yards up the freeway.
When she finally made it to the stores, her experience was no better; a shopper ran over her foot with their cart, the check-out lines were total chaos, and, in the end, she left spending more money than she wanted on lousy gifts.
Haphazard last-minute Christmas shopping can make shoppers feel like they did something to anger Krampus the Christmas demon. But unlike the children he is thought to punish for being naughty during the Yule season, frazzled consumers may consider being bagged up and carried to his lair preferable to the bedlam that is outlet and strip malls.
If you’re shopping so late in the season you’re already desperate - don’t exacerbate the situation by doing something insane like going to a mall. Pickens County has plenty of local stores, boutiques, antique stores, consignment shops, art galleries and a winery to satisfy any shopping list - and if you haven’t already you’ve still got time to patronize them. The Pickens County Chamber of Commerce - like many other counties, cities and towns pushing to keep dollars local - even has a tagline for it. “Shop Pickens First.”
That’s because shopping local does much more than save you from a hellish outing and a long drive time - it supports your local economy and encourages growth in the small business sector. It creates jobs and can fund capital projects, street improvements, utility enhancement and law enforcement that benefit all residents. Just look at the new courthouse on Main Street in Jasper --- all $17 million of it was paid for through sales tax revenue.
A Time article touches on the idea that buying local also enhances the “velocity” of money, or the speed in which it circulates.
“The idea is that if currency circulates more quickly, the money passes through more hands,” it says, “and more people have had the benefit of the money and what it has purchased for them.”
Shopping locally helps build our community, too. It gives you warm fuzzies all over when you have friendly encounters at our local shops and businesses. These encounters generate stronger relationships and a better quality of life.
We recommend trying your local independently-owned store before going to the big box chain stores for a few reasons. According to the American Independent Business Alliance, small businesses donate more than twice as much for every sales dollar they earn to local nonprofit organizations than bigger corporate stores.
When small businesses are supported, it encourages others in town to open a business and in time the town develops a character that can’t come from the big box guys.
Some argue that independent stores can’t compete with the low prices at chain stores, but when that cheaply made jacket, toaster or piece of furniture breaks in less that a year you’ll question its “value.”
But we’re not being purists. We’re not arguing that you should never go to a corporate chain store, shop out of town or shop online, just do your best to shift some of your dollars to independent businesses here in Pickens.
Maybe you’ve procrastinated again this year, but there’s no reason you can’t still have a pleasant, stress-free shopping experience right here with family and friends – and support your community while doing it.