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Experts urge shoppers to think local this holiday season

Small business and holiday shopping
Posted at 12:33 PM, Dec 01, 2022

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Inflation has hit the holiday season causing many of shoppers to look even harder for a good sale. But this holiday season, experts are urging people to think local more than ever before.

"Big retailers as well as small retailers are recognizing people are worried about inflation,” said Stephan Weiller, a professor of economics at Colorado State University. "The holiday season is pretty important in terms of the economy. As a country, we are supposed to spend over a trillion dollars on holiday sales. That's 5% of the GDP, or 5% of what we produce is actually sold during the Christmas season, which is pretty unbelievable."

With inflation increasing the price of goods by sometimes 8%, many people are turning toward shopping online and in big chain stores.

"That’s what big box stores are doing; they’re discounting deep and often and that's what people are seeing,” Weiller said.

"The big box stores and Targets and Walmarts are really captivating the toy businesses,” said Richard Skorman, the owner of Little Richard’s Toy Store in Colorado Springs. “They used to have two or three aisles of toys, but now they have 15 or 20. So, it's hard for small business owner small toy store owner to compete sometimes. We have to innovate."

Economists are now trying to inform consumers to consider small privately owned toy shops for their holiday spending.

"If you're shopping for example at big chains all of that money goes away from the community, it goes to corporate headquarters,” Weiller said. “Spending locally keeps dollars flowing in that community.”

"So, Christmas is a big part of our sales,” Skorman said. “It could be up to 60% of our sales for the whole year, so it's really important for us."

Skorman has kept his business alive by carrying things big box stores might not actually carry.

"We've been preparing for this for months and months,” Skorman said. “We weren't sure if the supply chain was going to be hurt this year because last year, toys were hanging out on boats from China, so we bought a lot local, and we have a good full stock right now."

Economists say that it's hard for small businesses to compete with big chain prices, but Skorman believes stores like his can get through inflation by investing in their customer service.

"You'll find that people who work in locally-owned stores are really knowledgeable,” Skorman said. “And in some cases, local stores can talk you into something cheaper than what you were going to get so that could be an inflation buster. If you lose your small businesses in a community, you really lose your sense of character, your sense of place and a fair amount of money that would be invested and that community goes away."