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Akst: Stay home today, shop local Saturday

Published: Friday, Nov. 29, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST

I hope your Thanksgiving was yummy and relaxing.

I also hope that except for an emergency run for whipped cream to top the pumpkin pie, you didn’t shop Thursday.

Because rampant consumerism is ruining America and the rest of the world.

Don’t take my word for it. On Tuesday, Pope Francis published his first solo-authored work as pope. He declared unfettered capitalism a “new tyranny” and attacked what he calls an “idolatry of money.”

Of course, given that this column is published on Black Friday, you’re probably out practicing unfettered capitalism right now. That’s OK.

So if shopping on Thanksgiving is just wrong, Black Friday is unfettered capitalism and Cyber Monday is a pseudo-event designed to produce more unfettered capitalism, how should a consumer support an economy in which consumer spending accounts for about two-thirds of the GDP?

The answer: shop ’til you drop tomorrow at small, local businesses during Small Business Saturday.

Small Business Saturday, founded by American Express (a large business) in 2010, is dedicated to supporting small businesses across the country. SBS is celebrated every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Shop small. Shop local. Sometimes the prices aren’t the best, but they’re competitive. Sometimes the inventory isn’t as deep, but there is more uniqueness, and in my experience, the customer experience is nearly always better.

And, according to various sources I’ve trolled, shopping local is the right economic thing to do.

A recent study by Civic Economics analyzed 15 independent retailers and seven independent restaurants in Salt Lake City, comparing their local economic impact with four national retail chains and three national restaurant chains.

Local retailers returned 52 percent of revenue to the local economy, compared with 14 percent for national chains. Similarly, local restaurants recirculate an average of 79 percent of their revenue locally, compared to 30 percent for chain eateries.

A 2011 study from Maine Center for Economic Policy found that every $100 spent at locally owned businesses contributes an additional $58 to the local economy. By contrast, $100 spent at a chain store in Portland yields $33 in local economic impact.

The Maine study concluded that if residents shifted 10 percent of their spending from chains to locally owned businesses, it would generate $127 million in additional local economic activity and 874 new jobs.

Why is this? According to the study authors, independent businesses spend more on local labor, goods bought locally for resale and services from local providers. Simply put, more of the money you spend at a local store stays local. Money staying local also supports other businesses and charities.

And don’t forget the customer service, which is becoming a big factor in my purchasing decisions.

A couple weeks ago I was in Moxie in downtown DeKalb. I consider Moxie to be a prime example of a wonderful, local business. It’s surely the coolest store in a 50-mile radius.

Anyway, I spotted an impulse buy item as I was checking out. It was fragile so the store employee wrapped it in tissue paper and accidentally forgot to bag the item.

A couple hours later, Moxie called me, apologized profusely and asked if I wanted them to deliver the item (which cost about $8) to my house!

Do you think Best Buy would have done that?

• Jason Akst teaches journalism and public relations at Northern Illinois University. You can reach him at jasondakst@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter (@jasonakst).

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