The first big weekend of the holiday shopping season is well behind us and for those who get their "to-do" list done ahead of time, well, nice work. Many of us, however, are still just making our lists. After all, we tell ourselves, we've got weeks to go. No sweat, we tell ourselves, even as we break out into a light sweat.
So here's a suggestion for this holiday shopping season that could pay off big for you — and certainly will have a payoff for the mid-valley's economy.
Keep it local this holiday season. Not only will you be saving yourself considerable time and stress, you'll be helping out your friends and neighbors who increasingly have found employment in the retail and restaurant sectors of the mid-valley's economy.
Figures compiled by the Oregon Employment Department suggest that Benton and Linn counties now have around 8,500 workers employed in the retail sector of the economy, and that number has grown by about 1,070 employees since 2009.
Growth has been even faster in the food-service sector of the economy, although it employs fewer people in both counties: The total is about 6,500 employees. But that sector has added some 1,400 jobs since 2009.
One happy result is that mid-valley shoppers have more options available to them as new retail outlets open their doors. And, if you want the perfect end to a busy day of shopping, you have more dining options available as well.
In past years, we've made the case about shopping locally during the holidays on purely economic grounds — and these employment numbers certainly bolster this case. The people working in stores and restaurants are your friends and neighbors. Giving back to their communities is part of their business plans. A successful holiday season often is the key to a successful year for many of these businesses.
All that remains true.
But there's another compelling reason why you should keep it local during the holidays, and it's all about you: It's just better for you.
Sure, you could hop into the car and drive to Portland and Woodburn. But think about the time and aggravation you'll save if you opt for a local retailer instead. You can sleep in a little later and head off to a local store, where you might meet your friends and neighbors. You might be able to spend a little time browsing in search of that perfect gift. And then you can end the excursion with a relaxing meal at an area eatery.
With online shopping booming, remember that many local retailers also have useful websites — and offer an additional benefit as well. If you see something interesting on the site, not only can you buy it, you can journey to the store and examine the item with your own eyes. Or you can call somebody at the store and talk to someone who actually lives in the mid-valley. If a local store doesn't have a particular item in stock, it usually can order that item and have it ready in a couple of days. And then you can celebrate by grabbing a takeout meal from a local restaurant.
We know that, to some extent, we're preaching to the converted: Many of you shop locally during the holidays to support the community. For that, we salute you. And if part of the reason why you shop and eat locally is because you know it's better for you, well, that can be our little holiday secret.