Shop home for the holidays: Retailers say shopping local keeps community vibrant

Published 12:05 am Sunday, November 22, 2015

(photo illustration/The Natchez Democrat)

(photo illustration/The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Local businesses say looking out of town — or online — during the holiday shopping season doesn’t make sense if shoppers want to see their community thrive during the rest of the year.

This week marks the official launch of the retail sprint that is the calendar month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and local shop owners say responding to the annual appeal to shop local isn’t just an appeal to support shops.

“The main thing is, when you shop local, it does keep our dollars local, and your little shops like ours turn around and support your local sports teams, churches and all the events that go on in the community,” said One of a Kind Owner MaryLees Wilson. “To keep your community vibrant, we need to keep our dollars at home.

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“I doubt that somebody would go to Jackson and ask some store there for an ad in their football program, and with online ordering, I can understand if it is something you can’t find at home, but if it is just a pair of boots or a Mississippi State jersey, we all have that, and those Amazons and other online stores are not going to buy an ad in your football program or support your youth group when they go on a trip.”

But the experience of shopping local is also going to be better, not only in the short term but through the years, Pampered Sole Manager Karen Smith said.

“When you shop locally, you are going to be treated well. I can’t tell you the number of people who we see from Baton Rouge who can’t get over the quality of customer service we provide, and you are only going to get that in small, local shops,” Smith said.

“We have been open for almost 19 years, and I have seen some of these kids where their mamas were pregnant and shopping with us, so some of them I have known since before they were born.”

The other thing is people may not realize the diversity in shopping that has popped up in the Miss-Lou in recent years, Smith said.

“There are so many people who have opened shops from all over — folks from San Francisco and New York — who have opened businesses,” she said. “I have folks who come in who can’t believe the quality they can find here — it is a little melting pot.”

Local shops can also give better deals than big box stores, Smith said.

“When you have got a fabulous selection of fall and winter shoes and boots at (a bargain rate), why go to Baton Rouge?” she said. “A lot of times you are going to get a better deal when you shop locally because we are trying to move out stock to get ready for spring.”

While local shopping isn’t limited to the downtown area, the move to revive the downtown area will need local support to sustain itself, said Mon´Amie co-owner Sommer Guedon, whose boutique opened on Main Street earlier this year.

“We want to see Main Street take off,” Guedon said. “You are starting to see businesses full into these empty spaces, and if it keeps going like this, instead of driving to Baton Rouge, you can spend the day downtown. You can eat, go walking, shop, a little bit of everything.”

And that’s ultimately the point of the shop local movement, Natchez Downtown Development Association Board Vice President Daphne Taylor Lee said.

“You don’t want to have a community without a vibrant downtown,” she said. “You put the dollars downtown, ou get the people. If you want to encourage tourism, you want to have a place for people to go, but also have to have local people involved, too. You can’t just depend on tourism.”

But if tourism is a key component of the local economy, having shops that are open and doing well are key, Wilso said.

“We are advertising that we are a big tourist community, and we are, but if people come here and see our homes and learn about our history but there are no shops open, they are probably not going to go home with a lot of good things to share.”

Beyond that, shopping local ultimately makes your life easier, Lee said.

“I don’t think it should be necessary to drive an hour to go to the theater or buy clothing,” she said.