Today is “Cyber Monday,” which, according to Wikipedia, is a term that was invented by Shop.org in 2005 after data showed that 78% of online retailers reported a significant increase in sales on the Monday after Thanksgiving in 2004. Since then, online sales on Cyber Monday have grown from $610 million in 2006 to $1,028 million in 2010. As also evidenced by the growing junk mail folder of my email account, Cyber Monday is a big deal for retailers.
Cyber Monday has also gained attention from employers whose employees might be shopping today instead of doing company work. According to Wikipedia, as of November 2011 7% of human resource managers surveyed have fired an employee for holiday shopping online. However, shopping at work isn’t the only reason for forgetting about Cyber Monday and doing any holiday shopping right in your own neighborhood.
Why should I buy local goods?
Buying local might not always be reasonable or feasible. I am not going to find local pineapple in Indiana and you’re not going to find local Italian leather goods unless you live in Italy. However, many goods can be found locally and there are good reasons to do so.
1. You stimulate your local economy. There is much unrest right now about the shape of the economy and the number of people who are unemployed. By buying from local businesses, you help your neighbors keep their jobs, which also helps keep money in the community (especially if they patronize other local businesses). Local businesses also help foster community engagement and support through sponsoring youth sports teams, hosting meetings and events for clubs and organizations, and providing space for neighbors to meet, interact, and share ideas.
2. You get what you actually want and not what someone else wants you to buy. Although a greater variety of goods might be found online than in your immediate neighborhood, visiting local shops and businesses allows you to find unique items. Small businesses can select products based on the needs of their local customers and not a national sales or marketing plan. You might also get better customer service from someone who lives in the community and who better understands the goods and the customers with whom they interact.
3. You do good for the environment. Although buying online saves you a trip to the store, items purchased online might have to be shipped (and possibly returned) over long distances. Buying locally saves gas and pollution, especially if you can walk or bicycle between several stores. Locally owned businesses also often make local purchases themselves.
So today, especially if you find yourself at work, skip the Cyber Monday deals and instead find some time (lunch break, after work) to walk around a local downtown area nearby. Walk into a few shops that you have not been to before. You might find a few new treasures in your neighborhood.