The holiday season tends to bring with it a renewed sense of optimism and hope for the year ahead. This year, despite it being a seemingly endless uphill battle, is no different. Lowcountry Local First has – for more than a decade now – ended its year with a Buy Local-centric public awareness campaign. In the beginning of the nonprofit’s existence, it was a week-long push. It quickly became Buy Local Month which carried on for several years – but for the first time this year, it extended once again to become Buy Local Season, a two month-long pounding of persuasion for the community to shift its dollars to local businesses during the holiday buying blitz. The campaign touts not only the “why” of buying local and its importance on the overall wellbeing of this place, but the “how” – making it easier to find and support the hundreds of local retailers, personal service and food/beverage companies that abound across the Lowcountry. Election Day came and went but we’ve been asking citizens to “vote for mom and pop” for weeks now.
It’s not uncommon these days to hear or read on local businesses’ ads the message of buying local being “more important than ever.” And it’s true. The pandemic has taken a massive toll on many of our local shops and restaurants – and the fight isn’t over yet. As Director of Marketing & Communications for the local economy-building organization, it has been a delight to hear directly from several citizens that they’ve decided to not just shift 10 or 20 percent of their holiday spending to local sources this year – but rather they would be going ALL IN. Not a dollar would be spent with mega online retailers or Big Boxes. There seems to be a more potent understanding this year of the great need our local businesses have for our purchases. A dire sense of duty with our dollars has resulted. And these pledges and commitments kept are a beautiful thing to witness, something that gives me hope at the end of a rather grim year.
But I wish to challenge you to go one step further. Shift your dollars – however much you can – because, yes, every dollar matters. But don’t just make the shift today, or tomorrow, or Christmas Eve for you stragglers. Don’t make the shift because it will feel good this holiday season to support your neighbors and get them over their end of year budget hurdles. Make your shift a permanent one… a new normal. Pause and reflect on how good it felt to pass your dollars on in meaningful and purposeful ways, but perhaps also on how easy it was to support those businesses. And simply keep doing it. You’ve taken the time to discover new sources for that kitchen gadget, that book your dad wants, and that new sweater for your friend. Remember those businesses next time you need those items, even if it’s a random Tuesday in March. Love the soap or candle you found locally for a loved one? Get soap from them all year round. Our Buy Local Season campaign exists to highlight the importance of buying local for the holidays – but our local businesses need us every day.