Our Views: This Christmas, think locally, shop locally

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Thursday, November 28, 2013

This weekend, shoppers will swarm stores in and around Janesville to check off items on Christmas gift lists. Many or most shoppers will jockey for parking spots, jostle with crowds and juggle packages in long lines at big-box stores.

Other people will avoid the hassles and let their fingers do the shopping. The National Retail Federation projects sales in November and December to rise 3.9 percent to $602.1 billion. Shop.org expects online sales to grow even faster, between 13 and 15 percent to as much as $82 billion. That’s on top of a 15.7 percent increase in e-commerce the government reported in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Each time you spend at an online mega-retailer, however, you’re ignoring the value of local shops and workers they employ. These small stores can offer customers big advantages.

For example, if you’re seeking a special gift for that hard-to-please person on your list, check out artwork at Raven’s Wish, 101 W. Milwaukee St. in downtown Janesville. If that someone appreciates antiques or collectibles, visit Carousel Consignments, 31 S. Main St., or another of downtown’s growing group of secondhand stores. Or buy a gift that says “Janesville” at Wisconsin Wagon Co., 547 Laurel Ave.

If you value customer service, find it at Michael’s Cycles, 2716 N. Pontiac Drive, or at a local franchise shop such as Janesville’s two Ace Hardware stores. Local owners have vested interests in making you happy.

The possibilities are many. Think fitness at All Season Runner, 20 S. Jackson St. Think gardening at K&W Greenery, 1328 Highway 14 East. Think Book World—independent of the chain of the same name—at 2451 Milton Ave. for that voracious reader. Think Cranberry Moon, 2553 Milton Ave., for a person passionate about home décor. Think the Real Cheese Place at 1334 Milton Ave. if food is a favorite gift. Think soda or beer samplers from Gray Brewing for beverages unique to Janesville. For the music or movie lover, think The Exclusive Co., 1259 Milton Ave., one of seven Wisconsin locations that make up “America’s oldest full-line independent record store.”

Speaking of food, consider a gift certificate at The Italian House, 463 S. Randall Ave., or Aglio Ristorante, 12 S. Main St. Buy the sports lover tickets to a Janesville Jets game or the history buff tickets to a Lincoln-Tallman House tour. Consider a certificate to Rotary Botanical Gardens gift shop, a show at the Janesville Performing Arts Center, a local golf course or spa.

These are just a sampling of the many options; other local businesses even compete with some of these.

Nearby communities offer local options, too. For example, in Milton, buy a bottle or two at Northleaf Winery or a unique gift at Peddlar’s Loft or the Red Rooster at the Old Junction Mill shops.

When you go shopping, you might buy gas and lunch or stop for a cocktail afterward. Shop locally, and you’re supporting these local businesses, as well. Spend locally, and each dollar will turn over repeatedly—studies suggest it churns seven times. That tip for a waitress might give her money to buy another gift for her child. The business owner’s holiday revenue might lead to hiring more help or an improvement project that supports local contractors. All such businesses buoy the local tax base.

Shop locally, and you’re supporting business owners who invested in the local economy, who employ your neighbors, who donate to charities and whose vision, creativity and innovation help make our community unique and enjoyable.

This Christmas, think and shop at local stores.

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