N.H. retailers band together for a 'buy local' Christmas

Five New Hampshire "buy local" groups representing more than 1,000 independent businesses around the state are once again encouraging consumers to shift their shopping from big box stores to local retailers this holiday season.

Their message: shop in locally owned, independent stores, where dollars spent have a greater economic impact on the local community chain stores do.

The holiday campaign is called Shift Your Shopping, a grassroots initiative that was started in Massachusetts in 2009. Since then, it has gained national momentum, thanks to collaborations with two prominent local-first alliances, the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies and American Independent Business Alliance.

This year, more than 140 "buy local" groups representing some 38,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada are taking part in the initiative.

The Shift your Shopping website lists five buy local groups in New Hampshire that are participating in the campaign: Be Local Concord; Keene-based Monadnock Buy Local; Portsmouth-based Seacoast Local; Laconia-based Belknap Independent Business Alliance; and Bethlehem-based Women's Rural Entrepreneurial Network, or WREN.

"This is the third year our region will participate in Shift Your Shopping and the buzz gets louder and louder," Jen Risley, program manager of Monadnock Buy Local, said. "We are reaching more citizens and empowering us all to rethink our shopping habits and make our spending work for our local economy."

The kickoff event to Shift Your Shopping is called Plaid Friday, which organizers bill as an antidote to Black Friday, the traditional kickoff to the holiday shopping season.

Like Black Friday, Plaid Friday takes place the day after Thanksgiving, but instead of fighting midnight mall crowds for deeply discounted electronics, consumers are encouraged to sleep in, sport plaid and shop instead at their favorite local businesses.

David Boynton of Seacoast Local — which has members throughout the Seacoast and into southern Maine — said that many of the group's member organizations will be offering up Plaid Friday specials "to pull people away from the malls and chain stores."

He said that many of the group's retailers saw a noticeable uptick in foot traffic thanks to participating in the holiday shopping campaign last year.

While the mission of Shift Your Shopping is to promote local stores, it isn't so lofty and delusional as to expect people to do 100 percent of their shopping locally, said Michelle Lineheart, owner of Just Be Boutique in Concord and a member of the Be Local Concord committee. Instead, it's about asking people to make changes to their shopping habits where they can, not asking them to boycott the mall altogether.

"It's really hard to do all of your shopping locally. For most families, it's not feasible for them to do that," she said. But, she added, "if a lot of people made a small shift, it would make a big difference."


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