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Think Local to Expand Holiday Cheer

'Tis the season to keep the home (retail) fires burning.

It’s often said the season from Thanksgiving through Christmas and the New Year is a make-or-break time for retailers.

One Sarasota retailer points out, it may also be a make-or-break time for the local economy.

“Three times more money is injected into the local economy when purchases are made with local businesses instead of national chains,” said Michael Duranko. He runs at .

Duranko was speaking to the , but his message comes straight from the National Retail Federation. He cited one of the federation’s reports: “Every year people spend more than $704 per person during the holidays. Shifting just $64 per person to local businesses could generate 200,000 new jobs.”

This is certainly a make-or-break time for local artisans, who hope their creations will find their way under Christmas trees. “Great things start with small choices,” said Duranko.

He suggests instead of running to a local big-box store full of “made in China” merchandise that shoppers visit local artisan areas like the Rosemary District in Sarasota or the Village of the Arts in Bradenton. 

“Sure you could by a Hallmark card, but buying one from a local artist is even better,” he said. “Use something created by a local artist.”

And the downtown farmers’ markets in Bradenton and Sarasota are another place to find local artisans vending their creations. “Farmers markets are not just for produce,” he said. “Artisans sell there, too.”

Duranko suggested expanding the “shop locally” idea to the entire year. “You buy gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and hostess gifts. You can share your commitment to gift locally,” he said.

Even if the item is not made locally, buying in a local store still puts money into the economy. The merchant makes a profit, can pay (or even hire) an employee, and buys from other locals. 

He also suggested the idea of giving memberships in local organizations. “Who wouldn’t want a membership in the , or or ?” he asked.  And he noted the has a shop, made by gallery, selling works made by its students.

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