When you ask someone what is missing from their life, they will rarely say, "a big box store to shop in," Michael Kanter said. Instead, what people really want is a true sense of community.
That's why Somerville Local First and Cambridge Local First launched the "Shift Your Shopping" holiday campaign, asking people to make the 10 percent shift by shopping at local, independently-owned businesses from November 29 to December 31.
"This is an opportunity to get people to think about their shopping, and to make it a purposeful attempt to buy from local independents," said Kanter, the owner of Cambridge Naturals and a Cambridge Local First executive committee member. "People need to better understand that doing so can build strong, local economies."
Both the Somerville and the Cambridge Local First will hold a press conference this Friday at 10:30 a.m. in front of 253 Washington Street in Union Square (the former Hope & Glory shop) to officially divulge more details.
As for a sense of community, spending time with local business owners gives people more of an awareness of the people around them, he said. One will probably conduct a more meaningful conversation with a business owner and experience better customer service, rather than trying to find help at a mall super store.
"People appreciate the more thoughtful gifts that local shops can create, rather than just mass-produced items," Kanter said. "The appeal of the local movement means that at the end of the day, what people really need are other people and to have others support them and to not feel alone."
The month-long Shift Your Shopping effort is an extension of the annual buy local week that occurs the first week of December, said Joe Grafton, the executive director of Somerville Local First. Somerville and Cambridge, as well as Portsmouth, NH and Portland, ME are trying out the month-long movement, to capitalize on the shopping focus that the holiday seasons bring.
Somerville and Cambridge Local Firsts will hold a series of events during the Shift Your Shopping month. On Monday, Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m. at the Somerville Theater, there will be a panel discussion and talk about the New Orleans study, "Thinking Outside the Box," by Civic Economics that shows that local retailers have twice the local economic impact of big box stores, while taking up a fraction of the land area. WBUR's Robin Young will be the moderator and the panelists include Kanter, Alderman Rebekah Gewirtz, and Grafton.
The businesses that sponsor Somerville and Cambridge Local Firsts will hold special sales and events throughout the season, including casual photos with Santa, sing-alongs and tastings, Grafton said. Shift Your Shopping sponsors include Ball Square Fine Wines and Spirits, Downtown Wine and Spirits, GRAND, Kickass Cupcakes, and Poor Little Rich Girl. Sponsors A complete list of Shift Your Shopping events and participants can be found at www.shiftyourshopping.org
Rachel Solem, the owner of Irving House and Harding House in Cambridge, and an executive committee member of the Cambridge Local First, is excited about the Shift Your Shopping program. She added it will be a long, slow process to get people to think about buying at local, independent businesses as it's about a shift in thinking.
Many busy people prefer the ease of the Internet or dashing to a department store for something like lingerie, for example. Chances are they will find something in their size. At a smaller, local store they may not. But, often times they can order something, and they will also receive a more personalized and quality shopping experience.
"The main reason to do this is that you are in an independent shop dealing with the person in charge who makes the decisions, so that you as a customer are not part of the random world of shopping," Solem said. "You have a better quality experience, which is what we want people to know."