Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is now worth $187.8 billion after profiting more than $48 billion from the COVID-19 pandemic. Capping an already historic year for a select group of retail titans, Americans are now turning in droves to do their holiday shopping online, if not only to maintain social-distancing protocols, then at least to take advantage of markdowns. Barron’s has reported that we spent $10.84 billion at online retailers on Cyber Monday (Nov. 30) alone, making it the biggest U.S. online shopping day in history. Amazon and other large corporations were again the greatest beneficiaries of the long shopping weekend between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, with Amazon alone taking in $1 out of every $5 spent during Cyber Monday sales.
Meanwhile, in sharp contrast, the country’s lifeblood industries of small mom and pop shops are struggling to stay afloat. As of September 2020, nearly 98,000 local businesses across the country have shut down due to the pandemic. Experts estimate there will be a 140% increase in small-business bankruptcies through the end of 2020. All of this, while small, local businesses also struggle with a tidal wave of record deaths, stay-at-home orders, safety restrictions and other limitations due to surging COVID-19 infections.
The importance of shopping small this year is more significant than ever. Supporting local businesses may not necessarily have the same convenience as adding items into your Amazon cart, but its benefits extend into your community and stimulate the local economy. It often has benefits in the realm of diversity, too.
Local businesses stimulate local economies.
Local businesses tend to hire local employees from within the community, which is especially important now that unemployment numbers remain high. In 2019, small businesses were able to create 1.8 million net new jobs. Local business are also more likely to source from other local craftspeople and other professionals. This local boost in business translates to national growth as well; In 2019, the Small Business Administration found that local businesses generated 44% of the U.S. economy.
Diverse-owned businesses are more likely to be philanthropic.
Diverse small businesses are defined as being 51% or more owned and operated by women, veterans, LGBTQ individuals, people with disabilities, Black people, Asian people, Hispanic and Latino people, Native American people or other racial and ethnic minorities. Supporting small minority-owned businesses can also yield other tangible benefits beyond the fulfillment of goods. First, you’re supporting business owners who are often overlooked and underrepresented in large corporations. Furthermore, data shows these business owners are more likely to give back to their own communities. Entrepreneurs in general have been found to donate more to charity than non-business owners.
Forest Harper, president and CEO of the nonprofit networking organization INROADS spoke at DiversityInc’s fall supplier diversity event, where he shared that individuals within these groups are more likely to circulate money back into their communities.
“And we know this for a fact: the disabilities community and minorities give back at a greater rate than the majority [larger corporations],” he said.
Shopping small is better for the environment — and your health!
If you’re shopping locally, you’re likely to leave your car parked in town while you run errands at a few places nearby. If you live in a city, these shops might be completely within walking distance, or you might use public transportation to get there. Not to mention, large corporations often have massive carbon footprints. In 2019, Amazon self-published a report saying it produced 51.17 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Purchasing products made overseas and then shipped to various warehouses (where the working conditions are often less than ideal) only to be shipped again to consumers inevitably increases the carbon footprint of whatever you’re buying.
When shopping locally is possible, the benefits of walking to make a purchase instead of having it delivered can’t be understated. A 2011 study found that U.S. counties with thriving local businesses had lower mortality rates, less obesity and fewer diagnoses of diabetes.
Shopping small helps you connect with your community.
Aside from adding to your shopping experience, forming relationships with local shopkeepers and other patrons can lead to a tighter-knit community. The year 2020 has sparked a growth in mutual aid networks — communities coming together to meet everyone’s needs rather than sending donations to large organizations. Creating supportive networks in your own community can come in handy when you or one of your neighbors needs help.
Shopping at local businesses means giving back to your community, the environment and even yourself, which ensures your gifts will keep giving even after the holiday season is over.