Written by Judy Christian
Everyone has heard different groups and cities touting the ‘Shop Local’ message, but why does it actually matter?
When you shop in downtown Kingston, you aren’t just supporting a business, you are supporting a family, a young employee, or a kid’s parent. You are keeping Kingston employed and keeping the money you spend in the city. Money spent in downtown shops goes towards housing within our city, pays for people’s cars, and each employee to shop at local grocery store, keeping the money within the community. Basically, it circulates through the community, coming back into your pocket, paying for programs you use, helping out charities that you or your neighbours’ rely on, creating parks and businesses you use. Buying products online means the money leaves the community and will not return to you.
One of the best parts of shopping locally is that there is a huge variety of shops, cafes and restaurants spread out in an area that takes 10 to 15 minutes to walk around. Rather than food courts of the same old fast food slop, by going to downtown you can eat healthy options, enjoy vegan restaurants, and savour artisan coffee. Treat yourself and a friend to amazing food that it so affordable. Why spend $20 at a fast food place when you can enjoy freshly-made and great tasting stuff for the same price and support a local family?
Downtown showcases not only amazing shops, but the architecture and ambiance is so enjoyable. Head into Cooke’s Fine Foods and Coffee where, as you step through the door, you are transported back to 1865. You will walk on the original floors, glance up and see the old tin ceiling, and breathe in the unmistakable aroma of the finest ground coffee. Shopping downtown is an experience; each season has a special feel and the shops constantly have new items and displays. Amazon can’t really answer questions you might have. Sure, there are reviews, but you can’t touch, feel, or experience those items, you can only do that in a shop. Online you can’t speak with an excited owner, or discover how different cuts of dresses look on you, or find the perfect toy for your unique child – You can only do that by talking to an expert whose whole world and life is toys.
Honesty is another attractive reason to shop downtown, unlike many online shops. We’ve all seen or heard about online shoppers that get duped, buying an item that is miniature, or getting a dress that looks like nothing like the picture. When you shop downtown, you can see that the item is genuine, that it fits, or is of the quality you were looking for. The shop owners and staff have incredible amounts of knowledge on their products. I popped into Heel Boy yesterday and a woman was chatting with a client about the shoes he was trying on, giving him information about the company, the source of the leather, the development of the style of that shoe. I was glancing at boots and was so impressed with her knowledge, thinking she must have a PhD in shoes!
So what about price? Are things cheaper online? Many times: not at all. Many shoppers get a shock when they order items from another country and pay shipping and handling fees, only to discover that they have to pay it again once it enters the country. I, myself, had this happen when I bought t-shirts for my husband. Those $15 shirts suddenly became $30 once they arrived with extra charges. Upon calling the American company to notify them, they said that once a parcel is out of country, there is nothing they can do, that it was something I would have to take up with the Canadian Government. Add into that the postal strikes happening. I won’t risk a gift not arriving in time, so therefore, I head downtown. I was excited to hear that Festive Friday, a downtown holiday event on Friday, Nov. 30, will have gift wrapping services that support a local charity! I don’t even need to wrap my gifts, I can bring them all there.
Recently I needed a rain jacket, I didn’t want to shop for this online because I needed to make sure it fit, was actually waterproof, and I couldn’t wait a week to get it in the mail (or longer, thanks to the postal strikes happening). So I popped into the outlet shops, where $160 to $400 was the price I found for a long hooded jacket. Sure, there were a few at $99 that were sporty, but I needed this for work. I ended up popping into A One Clothing, I was greeted, shown the waterproof coats and given information on the various levels of waterproofing. As I found one I loved, I was thrilled to see it was on sale and cheaper than any I found anywhere else! I had great service, found jackets I hadn’t seen at any other shop, and only paid $120!
So what about weather, isn’t sitting on the couch better? Well, if that’s your question, you probably should head downtown and go for a bit of a walk! Not only do you get some fun exercise in, but even when it’s raining or snowing downtown, shops take care of us all. Most shops have awnings and as you walk down the street in the rain you hardly feel a drop. In the winter streets are cleared and so are the sidewalks. The downtown is incredibly protected from the wind, with the high buildings providing a wind break. If you do get cold there will be a café, coffee shop, tea shop, or bakery on the block you are on with a warm drink or dessert.
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