Shopping locally has never been more critical | Editorial

This week's editorial.

Since the pandemic began, islanders have rallied around each other in ways that are inspiring and uplifting.

This holiday season, we hope the “Island Strong” message extends to supporting local businesses for your gift buying.

Shopping local is more than frequenting an island store now and again. It’s about understanding the link between healthy communities and healthy businesses. It’s about hiring local contractors, buying local food and patronizing local shops because it strengthens the island for all of us.

Never has this been more important than now as our economic livelihoods are being threatened in ways we’ve never experienced. Many stores rely on the tourist season for a sizable portion of their sales, but that revenue window was narrow due to COVID-19 restrictions this summer. Winters can be hard for retailers anyway, but this year will be drastically more challenging without the cushion from visitor dollars.

We in the San Juans pride ourselves on our unique, special way of life, and our communities have an abundance of eclectic storefronts as well as businesses with expertise in their fields. The decision to “shop local” is easier when the goods and services are a cut above. Consider buying a gift certificate to a business that may currently be closed or have reduced offerings — restaurants could really use our financial support right now. A subscription to your small-town newspaper is a wonderful present (call us at 360-376-4500!).

Think twice before making that trip off-island to stock up the car at Costco or buy gifts from a box store. Not only are health officials discouraging off-island travel, shopping on the mainland means your hard-earned dollar is going to a business that does nothing for our island communities. It’s not going to one of your island neighbors, who may be struggling to survive in this economy. It’s not supporting a merchant who may give to the resource center or food bank — both of which are providing more than usual right now.

Buying products at locally owned businesses keeps that money circulating closer to where it’s being spent. Known as the multiplier effect in economics, this creates a ripple effect where those businesses and their employees spend your money locally. For every $1 spent at a local business, 45 cents is reinvested locally. For every $1 spent at a corporate chain, only 15 cents is reinvested locally. Spending begets more spending, and the local economy flourishes. Plus, by purchasing island-made goods, particularly produce and food items, you maximize your money’s impact and minimize fuel use and CO2 production.

This year, the San Juan Visitors Bureau is not promoting travel to the islands. Instead, they are encouraging shopping locally for holiday gifts online or with curbside pickup for islanders. Bureau staff has created a gift guide in conjunction with the statewide campaign #ShowWALove (https://showwalove.com/).

The Sounder, Journal and Weekly also produced a holiday guide, which is available at stores around town and online here: https://bit.ly/3q1y9kg

Thank you for protecting the health and safety of our communities and supporting the island economy by frequenting island merchants.