Merchants launch Shift Your Shopping campaign
By Elizabeth Sheeran
If malls and big box stores were the front lines on Black Friday, Somerville’s commercial districts were a welcome respite away from the battlefield.
There were no stampedes through the door in the wee morning hours. No panicked outcries as the mobs descended on stacks of discounted video games. No negotiating the mall parking lot like a carnival bumper car ride, only to end up parked in Siberia. In fact, most Somerville residents could leave their car at home and walk to local retail stores.
Shoppers who spurned the malls on Friday to head to Davis Square were treated to gorgeous late-autumn weather for leisurely browsing. And there were bargains to be had. Retailers around the square were offering Black Friday discounts of 15 percent, 30 percent or more, on items that probably can’t be found at a big box store anyway.
“It’s much less stressful to go out in the community and say ‘hi’ to people you know than fighting people over some flat-screen deal,” said Kat Rutkin, executive director of SomervilleLocalFirst, a non-profit that supports local independently-owned businesses. “You don’t have to fight parking or crowds. You can just walk out of your house and get some food, get some lunch and get some shopping done.”
Her organization recently launched Shift Your Shopping, a campaign to encourage residents to look closer to home when it comes to searching for that special gift. Rutkin said even a small shift in buying habits can make a big difference in communities, because money spent locally tends to stay local. “When you shop at the mall, all that money goes outside of the community, but when you shop in Somerville, up to three times the money stays in the community,” said Rutkin.
For gift-seekers looking for indoor one-stop shopping with a local flavor, SomervilleLocalFirst is sponsoring the Local Is For Lovers Market, a one-day showcase of local merchants and artisans, this Sunday, December 2 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Armory on Highland Avenue. “We wanted to create a family-friendly market to make it easier to do local shopping,” said Rutkin.
The event features locally-inspired gifts for just about anyone on your list, including arts, crafts, food, and gift certificates for local restaurants, services and classes. Supervised kid-friendly activities will give parents a chance to browse on their own, and local bands will provide a musical backdrop. There will even be a winter-themed photo booth for those who still need to send out holiday cards.
This weekend will also offer special holiday shopping opportunities in the Union Square neighborhood, featuring the annual indoor/outdoor Union Square Winter Craft Market on Saturday, December 1 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and a mix of local artist and artisan open studios, markets and sales, on both Saturday and Sunday.
Later next week, local retailers will mix it up with the nightlife scene in Davis Square for the annual Midnight Madness holiday shopping event, from 6 p.m. to midnight on Thursday, December 6. A long list of neighborhood businesses will be staying open late and offering holiday discounts and promotions throughout the evening.
“For a lot of the little local retail shops that participate, it’s their single biggest sales day of the year,” said Thalia Tringo of DARBI, the all-volunteer Davis Square business and residents association. Tringo said the event is often a chance for customers who come to the square for one specialty store to find out just how much else there is in the neighborhood. “We really have a unique selection of gifts. You can’t find that selection just anywhere,” said Tringo.
Looking around at the vintage goods in a Davis Square shop last Friday, Silvana Costa said she’d been shopping locally for years, because the area’s independent retailers offer a more personalized experience and merchandise you just can’t find at the mall. “There’s an eclectic mix of stores,” said Costa. “A lot of the pieces are one-of-a-kind. You can find things that speak to your personal style.”
Said Rutkin, of SomervilleLocalFirst, “There’s a lot of pride in what Somerville has. I think that people know that even if you shop exclusively in Somerville you can really get some awesome gifts that are made in Somerville, created in Somerville, sold in Somerville.”