Why Shop Indie?

With the holiday shopping season upon us, it feels important and urgent to remind folks to #ShopIndie and, perhaps more importantly, to share what we mean when we say Shop Indie.

COVID-19’s Impact on Small Businesses

We’re all painfully aware of the many ways that the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on every facet of our lives this past year. While the impact on small businesses is just one part of a much bigger picture, it’s worth noting how the mom and pop shops that we all love so dearly have been hit particularly hard.

While there isn’t yet comprehensive data on how many small businesses have closed since the pandemic began, from March 1 to August 11, Yelp estimates about 155,000 businesses shuttered. Additionally, NBC news reported that The American Bankruptcy Institute expects the 2020 total number of small businesses that will file for bankruptcy this year could increase by 36% from last year. Other recent findings from Yelp show that among the tracked businesses - which include restaurants, retailers, and other independent, consumer-facing operations - retail businesses have been closing at the highest rate since the beginning of the pandemic.

Not only are small businesses in general struggling right now, but those owned by Black, Indigenous, and people of color are being hit the hardest. The National Bureau of Economic Research issued a report in June of this year detailing that “the first estimates from April 2020 for Black business owners in the United States indicate a massive drop of 41 percent. Latinx businesses were also hit hard by COVID-19 losing 32 percent of business owners. Asian business owners experienced a 26 percent decline over the critical two-month window.”

Invest in Small Businesses, Divest from Big Corporations

In July, The Washington Post [PDF download] published an article titled “The end of small business” suggesting “that giant corporations may be the only survivors in a post-pandemic society.” The same article details that “in the 1980s, half of retail shopping took place in independent stores; today, it is less than one-quarter.” We don’t know about y’all, but we certainly don’t want to live in a world where you can only shop from Amazon and other megacorporations. And we certainly don’t want to give more money to billionaires who are benefitting from the pandemic and still not offering a living wage and benefits to their employees (cough, Jeff Bezos, cough). Let’s stop making billionaires richer.

When you purchase something from a small business, that money is going to an individual (whose day you’re probably making, whose bills you’re paying, whose passion you’re actively supporting) and that money is very likely going back into the community. Give that money to a corporation and, well, it’s certainly not going to have the same effect.

Here’s another stat from The Washington Post to chew on: “U.S. shoppers spent 50 percent more online in April and May than usual. Amazon — which already had about 40 percent of the online retail market — was the biggest beneficiary, but Walmart, Target and Best Buy all doubled or almost doubled their Internet sales.” While we know some items might only be available at larger retailers, imagine if folks intentionally looked to small businesses for items they needed and wanted. It would’ve been a game-changer for so many small businesses struggling to stay afloat during the last several months.

Not only are small businesses good for local communities, but they have a major effect on the health of the economy as a whole. Research from the Harvard Business School [PDF download] shows that small businesses in the US employ almost 50% of American workers. According to this article from The New York Times, small business also account for 44% of economic activity. Additionally the U.S. Small Business Administration released a report [PDF download] this October showing that small businesses account for 65.1% of net new job creation since 2000. When you spend your money at independently owned businesses in your own community and beyond you’re shaping the world for the better, not just filling the pockets of CEOs.

More Choice, Connection, and That Special Something

Shifting spending from corporations to small businesses is ideal not only for the businesses and their communities, but also for you! You get the opportunity to buy more unique items, often locally made, from people who aren’t just out to make another dollar.

Close your eyes and imagine a world without small businesses for a sec. Seriously, only for a sec, otherwise you might get too bummed out. Small businesses add such rich variety and creativity to the world. The vast array of small businesses means we have more options to choose from, less homogenization, more vibrancy and uniqueness to explore, connect with, support, and be inspired by.

Beyond that, supporting your favorite small shops and makers often creates a personal connection and relationship, something that simply can’t be replicated in any genuine way at big box stores.

Why Shop Indie?

Hopefully after reading all that, you’re wondering “what the heck can I do about it?” Our answer is simple: support small businesses, online and in person, as much as you’re able. Keep in mind, there’s more than one way to support the independent stores and makers you love.

  • Shopping: One very tangible way to support a small business is to shop with them. Spend your money at small businesses as often as you can. Have some items in your Amazon wishlist? See where you can find the same items or alternatives from a small business. As much as you’re able, try to divert your purchases from corporate stores to independently owned ones.

  • Sharing: Did you recently order the most perfect thing from an artist you love? Share that love on social media. Take a quick photo of the item and post it to your Instagram Story or tweet about it. Not only will it make the artist’s day, but it might very well be the reason someone new finds out about their work.

  • Donating: If purchasing something from a small business or maker isn’t an option, consider making a small donation to them or offering a trade of some sort. If they accept donations, you could send them $5 with a personal note telling them how much their work inspires you. Don’t underestimate the potential impact of a small gesture.

Your support can literally make all the difference to someone who might be struggling to make ends meet right now. We’re all much better off if our time and money go directly to the individuals and small businesses that bring life to our communities, as opposed to becoming just another avenue for profit for a megacorp. While this won’t fix everything wrong in the world right now, it is a tangible way to help the people and communities hurting most.

Funds might be tight this year, and the holidays are sure to look a lot different, but shopping indie right now is the perfect opportunity to keep money in your community and get unique gifts in the process.

Vanessa Wardy

Marketing at Big Cartel. Easily amused. Endlessly curious. Likes most things. Heart on sleeve.

Make a store & sell your art with Big Cartel. It’s easy.

Sign up