GUEST COLUMN: Shop local this holiday season

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As the season of giving kicks into full gear, we are excited to see so much positive energy surrounding our local economy. The snowflakes are starting to fall, and holiday shoppers are out and about. We are especially happy to see that many shoppers are increasingly looking for ways to shop locally for gifts.

Small businesses are also finding new ways to compete with the national big box stores for holiday shoppers’ dollars. The success of Small Business Saturday is undeniable. Now in its fifth year, more than two-thirds of shoppers are aware of the program and a reported $14.3 billion was spent with independent retailers and restaurants on the day.

This success has prompted many small businesses to expand similar promotions throughout the holiday season. The cleverly named “Plaid Friday” was crafted to be a replacement for Black Friday and is meant to describe the way small businesses are interwoven into our communities.

The recent trend of online retailers offering sales on Cyber Monday has prompted some small shops to offer an alternative: “Cider Monday,” when shoppers can connect with their local shop owners over a warm, spiced cup of the seasonal beverage.

It is truly heartwarming to see the season of giving return to its local roots in our neighborhoods.

Recent studies have shown that when money is spent at independent small businesses, more than half of those dollars stay in the local area. Shopping at local independent stores can have a significant and positive impact on our community.

Beyond the economic impact, shopping locally builds community spirit. The act of walking into our downtown shops and having conversations with your neighbors enriches the holiday shopping experience. The gifts purchased for loved ones become more special because of the direct connection they have to the community. These purchases are not only given to our loved ones, they are giving back to our communities, and that is something we can all feel good about.

At a time when holiday shopping can so easily be an impersonal experience that exports our dollars out of our neighborhood, state and country, it is wonderful to see our commitment to our neighbors and communities renewed.

When we shop locally during the holiday season, we are strengthening our communities with relationships and rewards that will last throughout the rest of the year.

Sen. Rebecca Millett, D, represents District 29 (South Portland, Cape Elizabeth and part of Scarborough). Rep. Scott Hamann, D, represents District 32 (parts of South Portland and Cape Elizabeth).

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