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Thursday, Dec. 11, 2008

Pledge to Buy Local This Holiday Season

Support local businesses and win great prizes

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If your holiday shopping could help to pump $55 million into the Milwaukee area's struggling economy, wouldn't you do it? Then pledge to buy local this holiday season.
The national Association of Alternative Newsweeklies (AAN) is coordinating an effort to ask all of the readers of alternative newsweeklies like the Shepherd Express to spend $100 in their local communities.

If readers across the country keep their pledges, more than a whopping $1.7 billion will be spent in hometown businesses.

If all Shepherd Express readers, which according to Media Audit is slightly more than 325,000 people, pledge to spend just $100 at locally owned retailers this holiday season, an estimated $32.5 million would be spent in our community. And that money is more likely to stay in the city-in fact, economists estimate that an additional 68%, or $22 million, of your local holiday expenditures would be respent in the city. That's why Shepherd Express is supporting the efforts of AAN and Our Milwaukee, a local business alliance, to keep dollars in the city. Even better, members of Our Milwaukee are donating gift certificates as prizes for Shepherd Express readers who pledge to spend $100 in Milwaukee. At the time of going to press, gift certificates and gift items have been donated by:

  • A.J. Ugent Furs and Fashions
  • Alterra Coffee
  • Beans & Barley
  • Brewery Credit Union
  • Caroll Studios
  • Celebrate Wisconsin
  • Chartreuse Circore Business Solutions
  • Circore Business
  • Comet Caf
  • The Establishment
  • Izumi's Japanese Restaurant
  • Laacke & Joys
  • Lakefront Brewery
  • Loop Yarn Shop
  • The Milwaukee Repertory Theater
  • Outpost Natural Foods
  • Rishi Tea
  • Sprecher Brewing Co.
  • Stan's-Fit For Your Feet
  • Stephanie Bartz Photography
  • Ugent Furs

The number of generous Milwaukee businesses is growing by the day, so CLICK HERE to make your $100 pledge and find the entire list of prizes. A randomized computer program will select winners daily throughout December. Check the Web site for details.

We will update our Web site as more businesses donate gift certificates. "We're excited about the opportunity to support fellow locally owned businesses at a time when many are feeling the effects of the downturn in the global economy," said Shepherd Express publisher Louis Fortis.

"Milwaukee's unique character and local economy depend on vibrant locally owned businesses that set us apart from other cities. That's what makes Milwaukee great."

Make-It-Or-Break-It Time

Pam Mehnert, general manager of Outpost Natural Foods and the president of Our Milwaukee, said that while many consumers are looking for the best deals during a slumping economy, national chain promotions aren't always the best bet. Money spent in local Milwaukee businesses has a ripple effect throughout the city. Of each dollar spent in a locally owned establishment, 68 cents stays in the community. But only 13 cents of each dollar spent at a nationally owned chain remains here. The rest is shipped off to corporate headquarters somewhere else, with taxes paid in another state and products ordered from another part of the globe.

Locally owned businesses invest in their community in many other ways as well. Small-business owners donate far more money to local nonprofit organizations than companies headquartered elsewhere, and their workers are more likely to be deeply rooted in their own communities.

"Everybody is thinking about cutting back this year," Mehnert said. "But we want people to be mindful that you can cut back and still do more with your money by shopping at a locally owned business."

Shopping locally is even more important this year because the holiday shopping season is often a make-it-or-break-it time for retailers, which typically generate about 40% of their revenue in the final weeks of the year. "You definitely see a lot of people looking toward this holiday season, and if it doesn't work, then some of these longstanding local businesses in Milwaukee won't be here next year," Beans & Barley's Todd Leech said. These local businesses are the heart of Milwaukee's economy and are what draw visitors here. "Our Milwaukee is trying to recreate the culture of the locally minded community and trying to make Milwaukee stand out and be unique," Leech said. "We are not like any other city. And while you can shop at a national chain or stay at home and order off of Amazon or Price.com, you can go out and have a real experience at a local establishment."

The Shepherd Express and Our Milwaukee are encouraging all Milwaukeeans to spend locally this holiday season, starting with the $100 pledge at www.expressmilwaukee.com.

"This is a win-win proposition," Fortis said. "Our Milwaukee members have made generous donations to Shepherd Express readers, and our readers will pledge to support local businesses this holiday season and in the coming year. Everybody wins." In addition to the buy-local pledge, holiday shoppers can find a variety of locally made gifts at two events, the Our Milwaukee Buy Local Fair and the Exchange Alternative Gift Fair, both of which will be held on Saturday, Dec. 6, from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Urban Ecology Center, 1500 E. Park Place. Admission is free.

What's your take? Write: editor@shepex.com