We are so grateful this holiday season and beyond for the many people who have committed to buying locally. So far we've been having a very strong holiday shopping season - helped along, no doubt, by the mild weather we've been having. I'll admit I have a little smug feeling myself for the ways I've switched almost 100% of my present-shopping to local businesses, artists, restaurants and services. Well, ok, 92%. I bought two shirts at Old Navy (I made matching Word Girl shirts for me and the girl), one yard of fabric at Jo-Ann's (sparkly yellow for the outside of the Word Girl capelet), and one certificate to Sundance. But it is not just about that smug feeling or about knowing you are supporting someone else's small business the way you hope others are supporting yours. This is about more of my money staying in my community, and working harder while it is here, and doing more of what I want it to and less of what I don't (lobbying in Washington, for example). I won't repeat myself too much, but I wrote more on the topic here.
To be fair it is not that hard if you live in Madison, and I am lucky that my parents pretty much just wanted to eat at local restaurants anyway, and also lucky that we have a rather small family and my gift list is short.....And if you are my brother-in-law or any other family member, stop reading now.... here's the list: Food Fight, In Balance, Zip Dang, Stitcher's Crossing, Asia Express, Homegrown (local to Georgia but I still count it), Wisconsin Craft Market, Dumpling Haus, Frugal Muse, Rutabaga, Pizza Brutta, Rupert Cornelius. Done and done. Well, maybe some stocking presents: Capitol Kids, Little Luxuries, Soap Opera, Fromagination, Anthology, Brennan's, Craftacular.
I have also appreciated lessons learned over the course of this year with respect to products for the shop. When we went on our first buying trip of the year, I didn't know what was available in terms of Christmas ornaments, a category I was hoping to expand upon. Though we did find some, most were imports. Now, truth to tell, my style isn't 100% handmade. In particular, craft supplies are a challenge. Most rubber stamps are produced in the U.S. but a lot of other papers and embellishments are not. We certainly have items in the store which we finding inspiring even though they are produced overseas, so there were some lovely glass ornaments which I couldn't resist. But when I went to Atlanta in July, I was pleased to find ornaments which were U.S.A. made, even, to my surprise, some lovely cut wood ornaments which come from right around the corner in Spring Green (why I had to travel to Atlanta to find them is a mystery to me, too). The collection has also been supplemented with local and Etsy artists.
I haven't yet crunched the numbers in terms of total revenue; figures commonly thrown around are that for every dollar you spend at a local store, 68 cents stays in the local/regional economy, vs 48 cents if you buy at a chain store and as little as 0 cents when you buy online. When we talk about having money for our schools and roads, as well as the services and unique businesses we enjoy, 20 cents on every dollar can really add up. I think the last time I checked, we were very close to that 68 cents, plus another 15 cents for independent artists around the country, who satisfy my goal of facilitating creativity even if they aren't in town.
However, the biggest effect can be seen in our product mix, since many of the items in store are made locally or by small business artists around the country. We like to buy local too.
So far in 2012, of the items sold in the store:
Approximately 50% are made in Wisconsin and the Midwest, much in Madison (since Sachi and Laura are the two biggest contributors to items made in the shop). We are pleased to be able to support our fellow artists, and also to generate substantially less packaging waste (as most items are hand-delivered in a shopping bag, instead of triple-boxed to be shipped from overseas).
Another 30% are from independent artists around the continent (including Canada but not crossing any oceans). These are small businesses, usually only one or two people, doing the creating, packaging, selling, advertising. We're pleased to support them as they pursue their passion.
The remaining 20% is mass-produced, sometimes here in the U.S., sometimes overseas. This includes many craft supplies as I mentioned above, some paper products (oddly enough, many of the glossy notecards have been printed overseas - it seems hard to imagine that it is cheaper to send those cards on a boat across the ocean than to print them here, but someone as obviously done the calculations). We try to create an interesting mix (and also, we're capitalists) and that sometimes means that things that sell aren't produced ideally. To a large extent, I feel like all that we can do is strive towards the changes we want to see, and in that respect, I am happy with the direction we are going. I am certainly much happier about the amount of packaging waste that we produce. It is significantly less, mostly by virtue of that 50% that comes from within the Midwest. At my old job, it was amazing how much packaging there was - items wrapped in plastic, put in little boxes, surrounded by more plastic or stryofoam and then put in larger boxes.
Items such as those are not what distinguishes one place from another; indeed, those are the kind of items that smooth out our unique variations. I am so thankful for the opportunity to have this shop, to share with people, to be inspired by people, to create opportunities for people to share their own work and inspiration. I thank YOU for supporting me and all the other local businesses as we pursue our version of the American Dream.