In Our Opinion: Support local business this holiday season

Traditionally in America, the Christmas season starts on the weekend after Thanksgiving. Many people start decorating, trees go up and many holiday-themed community events are held.

Instead of heading to chain stores for Black Friday madness or jumping on Amazon, Whidbey residents should consider doing their gift-buying and other holiday spending locally.

In addition to being Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving is Plaid Friday, which was created as an alternative day of shopping that celebrates the creativity and diversity of independent businesses in a more laid-back manner.

The next day is Small Business Saturday, which is a day to celebrate and support small businesses and all they do for the community. It’s a day to remind people that shopping locally supports neighbors and the community as a whole.

Downtown shopping in Langley, Coupeville and Oak Harbor offer wonderful holiday experiences in itself. Instead of driving off the island and cramming into crowded stores, shoppers can leisurely browse shops among Christmas decorations and perhaps stop for a bite to eat or a coffee at a local diner. They might even catch a glimpse of Santa Claus or meet neighbors.

Whidbey’s eclectic collection of shops and galleries are a great place to find unique gifts. Many stores offer items made on Whidbey Island – from high-end works of art to bottles of liquor to handmade candles to jars of jelly.

It’s always a good idea to support local small businesses and it’s good for the island’s economy in many ways. A report by the Island County Economic Development Council shows that about 20% of purchases by locals are “leaked” to off-island businesses. This is especially prominent in stores that cater to health and personal items, sporting goods, hobbies, clothing and general retail.

The problem is especially prominent in Coupeville, where 60% of sales go out of the town. In Langley, about 20% of sales are outside of the city. Only Oak Harbor has no overall problem with leakage, the report states, though some segments of the retail trade see more off-island spending.

American Express, which started Small Business Saturday, reports that an economic impact study finds that for every $1 spent with a local business, over two-thirds ($0.68) stays in the local community to support local families, local causes and other local businesses.

A happy holiday season begins at home.