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Karen Moores: Why shopping local works

Karen Moores is a Newfoundland-based lifestyles specialist who spent several years trend spotting with national Canadian lifestyles properties.

The holiday season is well and truly over. I know that because I finally paid off all my bills. I had to makes some choices this year: go online or go to a local store. The ease of shopping online is easy to see (who doesn’t like shopping in their pyjamas?) as without the hassle of lines or having to visit a shopping centre during the holidays, stress is somewhat reduced. It is no doubt convenient, shipping charges have reduced significantly on this side of the border since the dawn of online shopping and sometimes the discounts and perks, such as gifts with purchase or major price reductions, are considerable when compared to a traditional brick and mortar store front.

This year, however, I made an effort to buy half of my gifts at local boutiques and stores as well as the local version of national franchises and brands. Many local boutiques and shops also offer online stores and shops, an added bonus for online shopping fans like me. (As online shopping continually rises, as industry experts predict, independent operations will undoubtedly add their own online storefronts and provide additional options for consumers with loyalty to provincial and nationally owned brands.) This isn’t a case against online shopping (I dearly love it and acknowledge it’s the way of the future) but rather a push to buy local whether ‘local’ is right here in our own back yard or within our larger national retail community.

I know many who endeavoured to give something exclusively made in Newfoundland (or even simply made or purchased in Canada) and there isn’t a doubt that giving local benefits our province and also provides an opportunity for locals to act as ambassadors for our province - this year, my colleagues across the country were given packages of Jumping Bean Screech Coffee and Newfoundland Chocolate Company Santas and the gifts were well-loved not only because it was made by a successful independent entrepreneur, but also because it a first-class product.

There are many levels of strategic gift giving: buy handmade and purely local from one of our province’s talented artists, artisans or culinary specialists. The Newfoundland and Labrador Craft Council, the local Craft Fairs and kijiji.ca are always a wealth of information for talented bakers, artists and artisans.

Experiential giving is another trend in Canada - a spa package, vacation credit or a gift card for a favorite coffee house. Larger gifts, like ski weekends or bed and breakfast packages, also make ideal gifts for weddings (there are tons of holiday weddings in Newfoundland and Labrador) and anniversaries.

Shopping in local independent stores for major items, particular brands and specialty goods is another way to keep next year’s giving at home. The selection in independently owned and operated stores throughout the city has never been better. Supporting small to mid-size businesses operating in our province is always a part of our holiday giving plans.

Finally, taking your mall shopping local, in major franchises, also benefits local employees of major franchises and big and offers employment for many during the holiday season. Although it might mean a visit to a chaotic shopping centre or big box store, it also heightens provincial retail sales and benefits the employees working in this province.

Of course, living on an island, we are faced with certain realities: a package with a beloved toy doesn’t show and it’s Dec. 24. Maybe a particular gift item just isn’t available in the province or perhaps even in Canada. Certain gifts will always have to be ordered in and shipped, even at the cost of duty fees, for certain people in your life.

If you’re giving strategically, strike a balance between your favorite online retailers (ideally, Canadian) and local independents as well as Newfoundland-based franchises. Set a percentage of gifts that can be sourced entirely locally and also set a day for downtown shopping during the holidays and while we’re all proud Newfoundlanders, we happily flash a Canadian passport. Endeavour to find Canadian-originating sites that don’t just cut duties, but also positively impact the Canadian economy.

Many of these rules apply all year long for occasions and events of all kinds and before we know it, it will soon be holiday season 2012.

Karen Moores is a Newfoundland-based lifestyles specialist who spent several years trend spotting with national Canadian lifestyles properties.