All in this together

Look around. There appear to be more “going out of business” signs than there are “help wanted” ones. There seem to be more families with children hanging out in parks during the day. We can’t turn on the news without hearing about yet another corporate bailout or more bad news on the banking front.

The simple fact of the matter is that this is going to be a tough holiday season for all of us. The only way we’re going to get through it is to support each other.

A few months ago during the fuel and foreclosure crises, in desperation we yelled, “Every person for him or herself.” We made the argument in this very space that people should shop the free shipping options online to put a few bucks back in the home budget rather than paying for fuel on top of the increased prices for staples we were seeing in grocery stores.

Well, times have changed, gas prices have come down at least temporarily, and we have different hopes for this holiday season. We know it’s likely everyone is going to do less shopping this year. And while luxuries will probably get cut back at the same time as more utilitarian gifts (like gift certificates for grocery stores) are likely to increase, here’s the bottom line: It’s your family, friends and neighbors who own the one-of-a-kind stores around town.

It’s difficult to estimate exactly how much impact each person, each store has to improve quality of life in the Truckee Meadows. There have been studies. One economic impact analysis done in Austin, Texas, in 2002 showed that “for every $100 in customer spending at Borders, the total local economic impact is only $13. The same amount spent with a local merchant yields $45, more than three times the local economic impact” (Austin Chronicle).

What’s surprising is how the numbers add up—from $100 to $9.7 million. Stay with us, here.

Let’s back up and talk about a nationwide campaign RN&R is part of this holiday season. More than 70 alt-weeklies across the country (including RN&R and its sister papers in Sacramento and Chico) have committed to a crusade that urges readers to spend at least $100 of their holiday money at locally owned stores. It will plug dollars into economies like ours right when it’s needed most.

Local businesses produce more income, jobs and tax revenues for their regions. Local businesses keep neighborhoods vibrant and unique. Shopping local is good for the environment, since buying local reduces the need to ship products—including food—thereby lessening greenhouse-gas emissions. Finally, there’s the obvious. Local businesses are fundamentally tied into the future of their communities and do things like donate more money to local nonprofits.

Here’s the math: If each one of RN&R’s readers spends $100 of their holiday money at local businesses between Thanksgiving and New Year’s (instead of in big-box stores), that comes to an additional $9.7 million pouring into our local economy. (An independent group, The Media Audit, estimates that RN&R’s “cume” (cumulative) once-a-month readership adds up to 96,900. Multiply by 100 and voilà, that’s $9.7 million.)

Sounds simple. But it won’t work without your participation. So we ask you to join us. Take the plunge. Pledge to shop local.