Journal Opinion: Join the Shop Local Movement

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Local merchants and artisans are depending on their communities to patronize them this holiday season. This year is particularly challenging given they face the same obstacles that confront large retailers with deeper pockets. While big-box stores have the means to demand distribution priority from suppliers, to mitigate labor shortages as well as price hikes, global economic challenges are not as easily overcome by small retailers.

Efforts such as Small Business Saturday – observed the day after Black Friday – and the groundswell of Shop Local movements around the country provide a rallying call on behalf of local business owners and entrepreneurs. 

According to an impact survey conducted by American Express, 63% of small-business owners report they are preparing for a much better shopping season compared to 2020. That’s encouraging because 78% of businesses responding to the survey also say that holiday sales will likely affect their ability to stay afloat in 2022. And 80% of customers surveyed by American Express indicate they would support local businesses during the holidays.

Thankfully, community leaders in the Mahoning and Shenango valleys are promoting small retailers.

The city of Youngstown, for example, intends to host the Youngstown Flea Dec. 3 on the Phelps Street pedestrian walkway downtown, where vendors will sell their wares to the public.

“This is a magical moment when we can show some love to local vendors and local stakeholders and keep dollars in our own community a lot longer,” says the founder of the Youngstown Flea, Derrick McDowell.

Small pop-up holiday shops downtown such as Spruce Home Décor & Gift Store are likely to gain foot traffic throughout the season. So are other local shops such as Bella Amica Casual Boutique, also downtown.

The drive to support the local small retailer has led to praiseworthy, entrepreneurial ideas that are spreading across the country, thanks to technology.

In November, the city of Youngstown embraced one of these efforts with the launch of its YO! app, which is designed to provide city-funded rewards to customers who shop at Youngstown businesses. To create the app, the city partnered with, a global technology company. Among Colu’s many clients is the city of Boston, which launched its B-Local app in May.

Other cities are demonstrating their support for local retailers. Sharon, Pa., for example, turned Small Business Saturday into an event designed to encourage patrons to shop in its downtown.

Support for local shops has a direct impact on any community’s economic health. The American Express survey finds that for every dollar spent at a small retail business, 67 cents remains in the community compared to 45 cents when that dollar is spent at a big-box store.

Shop local and enjoy the holiday season.