Come Black Friday, the big-box stores will offer 50 percent off on this, doorbuster bargains on that, buy one, get one free on too much to think about.
But even as the savings add up, there’s still no better deal for a community than shopping local, advocates and independent store owners say.
“When folks support locally owned business, up to four times more money stays here in the community,” said Erika Mitnik-White, Southern Arizona director for Local First Arizona, a nonprofit advocacy group.
For about every $100 spent at a locally owned business, about $43 stays in Tucson, she said, compared to $13 from a purchase at a chain store.
“That’s money that is going to recirculate, create more jobs, create more opportunity. We know this is the key to creating a better Tucson,” Mitnik-White said.
By spending at a local business, shoppers not only support the retailer directly, they also support other local merchants, said Julie Rustad, owner of Julie Originals.
The artist and designer, best known for her Desert Dweller flash cards, said she tries to use as many local resources as possible when creating her work, including printing in the city.
Creating movement toward having more people buy local is the goal of two initiatives that launch Thanksgiving weekend.
Local First Arizona’s Shop Local month, which runs from Black Friday through Christmas Eve, sees the group partnering with businesses to promote shopping at homegrown retailers.
“It’s not just shopping for gifts, but for everything during the holiday season,” Mitnik-White said. “Think local when you’re looking for photographers for holiday cards, when you’re buying food for holiday meals, when you’re out celebrating at a restaurant.”
During Shop Local month, participating stores have monthlong deals that shoppers can take advantage of, kicking off with special Black Friday sales and even some Cyber Monday discounts.
Last year, 190 Local First Arizona members throughout the state shared their deals on the group’s site at localfirstaz.com/buy-local.
The other initiative, Small Business Saturday, encourages people to shop local during the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Started by American Express in 2010, the campaign used advertising, free promotional materials for business owners and statement credits for credit card customers who shopped local.
American Express will not offer statement credits this year, the company said, but the campaign will continue with stepped up advocacy.
Efforts to change the way people shop during the holidays seem to be paying off, said Tasha Bundy, co-owner of Mast, a boutique at the Mercado San Agustín.
“It’s changed a lot. I feel people get it now,” she said. “It seems that it’s more widely known that it’s a positive thing to go out and seek local vendors.”
No one is saying you should only shop local, business owners said, but shifting some spending will have an impact.
“I try to make it a policy. Every time I go to Target and buy something, to try and even it out by going to at least two local shops,” Bundy said.
Artist Rustad also said she tries to practice what she preaches, even if it did take becoming a business owner to change her approach.
“Being involved with Local First Arizona has shifted my mindset,” she said. “When we’re going out to dinner, if there’s an Applebee’s there versus a local Mexican restaurant, we’ll support the local place.”
Tom Cassidy, owner of Outside of Ordinary at Main Gate Square, said that while he tries to shop local as much as he can, he doesn’t think people’s shopping habits have changed that much.
“There are a lot of people that do shop local and support the local stores, but people nowadays, maybe more than ever, they shop price,” he said. “People don’t have a lot of money so they’re looking for a good bargain.”
That doesn’t mean they won’t find it at a local store, he said, where they can find something that’s not only fairly priced but also unique.
They not only sell a product, they sell a story, business owners said, something big-box retailers can’t offer.
In the case of Mast, customers can tell people they bought something from the women who made it, Bundy said.
“It’s easier to get what you really want and know what you’re getting — that it was made in Tucson instead of China,” she said.