Shopping small supports strong communities
— Created November 22, 2023 by Kathy Reed
By Kathy Reed
Thanksgiving is upon us, which means the holiday shopping season is “officially” here. Although there are those who hold with tradition and don’t start shopping for their holiday gifts until Black Friday rolls around, there’s more competition than ever for those holiday dollars. Gone are the days, it seems, when holiday shopping didn’t start until after Thanksgiving, as big box retailers start racing to win those dollars earlier and earlier every year.
But when it comes down to it, big business has a very small role to play. According to the Small Business Administration, 99 percent of businesses in America are small. That means shopping small and keeping those holiday dollars local could lead to big rewards for communities up and down Whidbey Island.
It’s a message local chambers of commerce and Main Street organizations want people to hear.
For the first time, the Coupeville and Langley Chambers of Commerce have joined forces for a print and television campaign to highlight the variety and quality of gifts that can be found by shopping locally.
“Coupeville and Langley share a lot of commonalities,” said Inge Morascini, executive director of the Langley Chamber of Commerce. “Both are small shopping districts. Both attract a lot of tourists, so we did this guide and a joint television campaign called ‘Stay and Shop,’ about bringing visitors to the island in the off-season and during the holiday period to enjoy what we islanders enjoy.”
The guide, which features walking maps of each community along with unique gift items that can be found at local stores, will be distributed locally by mail as well as at all Whidbey Island visitor centers and at local events.
“The guide itself is geared toward local shoppers,” Morascini said. “But we’re hoping people who have been here are attracted to come back and shop as well, using the guide as a navigational tool to help them find all these great stores.”
While shopping small is great for local economies, the gesture can have an even greater impact on the people behind the small businesses.
“When our community chooses to shop locally, they are not only investing in the economic development of our community, but they are investing in someone’s dream,” said Magi Aguilar, executive director of the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce. “This year, it is very important to shop locally because small businesses have had inflation challenges and staff shortages. Small Business Saturday promotes a strong community and it’s a perfect time to show our hardworking small businesses that we support and appreciate them.”
“Small businesses in our historic downtown are the heart of the community,” said Margaret Livermore, executive director of Oak Harbor Main Street Association. “Business owners each bring their own flair to their shop, their own personality, and become friends with their customers, who in return help support their business and other local businesses as well.”
Added incentives to shop locally include the Red Ticket Giveaway in Coupeville and the Green Ticket Giveaway in Oak Harbor, both sponsored by the towns’ respective Main Street Associations. The campaigns illustrate how shopping local can bring rewards.
“Our Green Ticket Cash Giveaway gives customers who support participating businesses a chance to win cash prizes,” Livermore explained. “For every $20 spent, a customer receives a green ticket to enter the drawing. This year the cash prizes are $1,500, $500, $250 or $100. Small Business Weekend is a double green ticket weekend. Customers can double their chance to win one of our cash drawings by receiving two green tickets instead of one for every $20 spent.”
The pandemic obviously impacted small businesses in a big way, causing many to close or causing staffing shortages that have made being in business more difficult. Despite all that, business in Oak Harbor has been booming of late, adding more incentive to shoppers to explore what’s new.
“The chamber conducted over 10 ribbon cuttings in our community in November,” Aguilar said. “This is a sign of a healthy business climate and a supportive community. The chamber’s role for creating a prospering business climate is to advocate and provide strategic business resources to foster continued growth. We foster this growth by hosting informational monthly luncheons, providing networking opportunities, marketing strategy opportunities, one on one business analysis, and we produce community events where businesses may showcase their service or products to our community.”
Aguilar said she is pleased with the direction in which the chamber is headed and is looking forward to an even bigger and better 2024.
“My vision for the Chamber is to create an inclusive atmosphere where we welcome all business types through an equitable lens,” she said. “The team and I have had many in-house conversations about planning events that actively engage diverse ownerships and include a diverse Oak Harbor. We are also seeing businesses grow by moving into larger spaces, building add-ons to their storefronts, and starting/creating new business opportunities. My continued goal is to build opportunities that embrace and connect our community all year round with new events, programs and through developing their chamber membership.”
Aguilar encourages people to keep their dollars local by shopping small.
“I could talk about how local sales tax money supports our schools, parks, roads, our public service workers, etc., but I want to focus on the uniqueness of small businesses in Oak Harbor,” she said. “Our small businesses thrive on providing unique, hand-picked items that tell a story and have that special Pacific Northwest charm.
“Supporting small businesses this holiday season (and all year round) means a more personalized connection with local artisans rather than ordering mass-produced gifts online or through larger corporate stores,” Aguilar continued. “It’s a win-win situation! Small Business Saturday is where we can all find one-of-a-kind gifts while actively helping our community grow stronger.”