Shop small has big impact in San Francisco

Thanksgiving is over. It’s time to hit the gym to get rid of the turkey and make room for the fruitcake. It’s also time to make that list and plan your holiday shopping. Sure, you could buy Grandma Rita a slow-cooker online. But why not skip the treadmill — we know you weren’t going to go anyway — and take a walk to buy gifts in one of our thriving merchant corridors?

Our local businesses support jobs, boost our economy and preserve the livability of our neighborhoods. What an easy way to directly contribute to the vitality of our city, support our fellow residents and preserve the character that makes San Francisco the place we want to call home. It’s easy to sit back and complain about what is wrong with The City. And yes, there is work to be done. But let’s take this opportunity to celebrate the more than 90,000 registered businesses that employ more than 326,000 local residents by shopping local this holiday season.

A 1 percent increase in local spending generates an additional $100 million for our San Francisco economy that funds vital city services. Studies show that shopping local creates 57 jobs for every $10 million in consumer spending.

Nationally, record numbers of consumers are shopping local. The Small Business Saturday movement, founded in 2010 by American Express, is dedicated to supporting small businesses across the country by driving a shop local campaign on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. As Small Business Saturday wrapped up its seventh year last Saturday, the outpouring of support for local businesses across the country hit record highs with 72 percent of U.S. consumers aware of the day. An estimated 112 million consumers reported shopping at small businesses on Small Business Saturday, marking a 13 percent increase from 2015.

Buying local during the holidays is a great place to start, but it should kick off a shift in shopping throughout the year. The Chamber is dedicated to programs designed to support our local businesses. We work closely with Mayor Ed Lee, who has championed his “Shop & Dine in the 49” campaign for the last three years and is dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of buying local.

We also lead SF Biz Connect, Mayor Lee’s initiative that challenges large local businesses to take a pledge to support other local San Francisco businesses by shifting 5 percent of their spending to local and small businesses. So far, 40 businesses have taken the pledge and directed nearly $2 million of spending to local small businesses in San Francisco. Through its platform — www.sfbizconnect.com — large employers can search for their product or service needs using a range of categories, in addition to targeted searches such as minority, women or LGBT-owned businesses. 

We can all do our part to support one another. While the numbers representing the economic impact of shopping local speak for themselves, local businesses also provide our city with qualitative value, as they help define and preserve the character of our communities.

So this holiday season don’t be a scrooge. Take a walk, and shop local!

Dennis Conaghan is executive director of the San Francisco Center for Economic Development, a department of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

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