It’s never been easier to do your holiday shopping from the comfort of your home. Major retailers make it easy to buy online, offering deep discounts and the ability to avoid long checkout lines. Amazon and other web-based platforms have a seemingly endless supply of gifts to choose from for anyone on your list.
That’s why it’s more important than ever to shop local this holiday season. In recent weeks, I have visited local retailers across Maryland – a bike shop in Cumberland, a gourmet popcorn vendor in Ellicott City, and an outdoors store on Kent Island, to name a few. Each of these businesses depends on strong holiday sales to survive.
The National Retail Federation projects holiday sales will increase around 4% from 2018, a slight uptick over the previous five-year average. That’s largely a reflection of an improving economy and greater consumer spending.
That’s great news, indeed. But within that data, online sales are expected to increase between 11% and 14%, meaning brick-and-mortar stores face growing competition.
Shopping local keeps your money circulating within our local towns and communities. These stores also employ thousands of Marylanders and represent the lifeblood of Maryland’s small business community. The owners care deeply about their customers and neighborhoods, because they are invested in their success.
Earlier this year, I presented the Cornerstone Award for Local Business Excellence in all 24 jurisdictions in Maryland. This award recognized small and family-owned businesses that are part of the fabric of their community. These honorees have stood the test of time, overcoming economic challenges, prioritizing customer service and showing a commitment to the community through sponsorships, service, charitable giving and civic engagement.
Put another way, they are the “Cheers” of their county – everybody knows their name.
I’m talking about businesses like Homestead Gardens in Anne Arundel County, the iconic Bengies Drive-In in Baltimore County and Clark’s Elioak Farm in Howard County. They are deeply rooted in their communities. They sponsor Little League teams, they support local law enforcement, and they generate tax revenue that helps fund schools, roads and more.
Yes, online is easy, but the personal in-store experience and customer service of your local retailer cannot be matched. That’s why I urge you once more to shop local when crossing off your gift lists.
I wish all Marylanders a restful and joyous holiday season spent with family and friends.