Shop local services

Elizabeth Miller | Boulder Weekly

This year, you could give gifts. Or, you could give the gift of a stronger local economy, more jobs, more money for local charities and more tax dollars for infrastructure by buying services instead of goods. Spa treatments, haircuts, house cleaning, massages and computer help are all examples of services that can be purchased from locally owned businesses.

“To the extent that people say, well, I’m going to do just goods-related gifts, there’s only so much in local crafts that I can give to people,” says Michael Shuman, research director for Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, a nonprofit organization that networks socially responsible businesses. “But if you open up the service categories and say you’re going to make your gifts an hour of a massage person’s time or an hour of a music lesson, or whatever, I think that’s a clever approach, and it should greatly expand the universe of local gift opportunities that people have.”

In 1960, people spent about a third of their income on services, and two-thirds on goods. Now, the equation is flipped, and about two-thirds of what a family spends goes to services instead of goods. Those hard-to-shop-for relatives? What they really need isn’t going to come from a department store.

“People are getting saturated, so when you have your 20th car and your 40th refrigerator, you start to think maybe I should spend a little more on education and health care,” Shuman says.

Gift certificates for services at locally owned businesses put money in the hands of people who will multiply the

effects of those revenues throughout the community by using local business services, including lawyers and accountants, advertising locally, keeping their high-level management staff local, and spending their profits in the local community.

Spend $10 at Starbucks, and about 14 percent of that stays in the community in the form of payroll, according to Richard Fleming, board president for Boulder Independent Business Alliance, which is running a Buy Local campaign.

Last year, Coloradans spent $12 billion during the holidays, according to the Mile High Business Alliance.

“If we shifted 10 percent of our spending we would increase the Colorado economy by about as much as $3 billion, which is huge,” Fleming says. “All that means is people take at least 10 percent of their spending with a corporate franchise and spend it at a local business.”

That boost would lead to more employment and a stronger middle class, he says.

“This is kind of an important, overlooked area of economic stimulus, and it’s unfortunate that we have not focused more attention on buying local as a way of building our economies and increasing the number of jobs available,” Shuman says.

How’s that for happy holidays? Respond: