Chances are, if you are sitting and reading the paper, cup of coffee in hand, you are not part of the tradition of Black Friday — that custom that calls consumers out into the cold, dark early morning in search of deals. Big TVs on sale. Treadmills at half-price. This season’s must-have toys, all there, but only for people who can rise before dawn and brave the chill. (Or for those who leave their family Thanksgiving table, since sadly, Black Friday now has a Thursday kickoff.)
It’s all part of what retail America calls the Holiday Season, as opposed to Christmas, the celebration of the birth of the baby Jesus. It’s a time to show love for family and friends through the purchase of expensive consumer gifts. Truth be told, it’s a lot of fun to open those nifty gadgets or start jumping around to the new family Wii come Christmas morning, although less fun to pay bills all the way to July. The country’s shaky economic condition still needs an influx of retail spending. Some day, we trust, our economy will rest not on unnecessary spending but on sustainable growth and the notion that buying less and living more is a lifestyle worth choosing.
For now, we continue to shop — in big enough numbers, we hope, to increase our city and state gross-receipts tax collections and keep the economy rolling along. But if the prospect of crowded stores and frantic shopping is not for you, do not forget another way of finding gifts this season. And by that, we do not mean joining the online craziness of Cyber Monday, the bookend to today’s shopping madness.
In reaction to Friday’s frenzy, there’s a different way to shop. Rather than Black Friday, we now have Small Business Saturday, which is celebrated tomorrow. (It’s got a corporate angle as well; American Express started it.) Still, Small Business Saturday reminds all shoppers and consumers that they can take their business away from monster national chains to local stores. And “local,” in Santa Fe, has many definitions. Of course, there are downtown shops — where many residents think only tourists visit but are wonderful spots to find one-of-a-kind gifts. Our city’s state museum stores sell handcrafted work and don’t collect gross-receipts taxes, so there’s always a savings. At the Santa Fe Community Convention Center, the entrepreneurial artists who participate in Winter Indian Market will be selling their work this weekend. That’s about as local as it can get (and coming up Dec. 1-2 is Winter Spanish Market, another opportunity to find locally made and crafted treasures). There also is the option of purchasing gift certificates to local restaurants or spas or even a local food market. Whatever you choose, those dollars spent locally stay in Santa Fe, where they multiply and improve the economy right here at home.
The notion is, that by shopping small, consumers can have a big effect. Some 100 million consumers took part last year, using the time between Black Friday and Cyber Monday to slow down, shop local and spend their dollars at home — where they will do the most good.