Benefits of shopping local this holiday season

Lee & Birch, a boutique in Grand Rapids.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The holiday season is in full swing as many people search for the right gift for their loved ones.

24 Hour News 8 talked to area businesses about the benefits of shopping local.

“I have customers that we met nine years ago, they come in and we give hugs,” said Nikki Gillette, owner of Lee & Birch.

Lee & Birch is a boutique where shoppers can find clothes, some hand-dyed pieces made in Michigan, and accessories, including jewelry made by local artists. It’s a shop where people can buy one-of-a-kind gifts, and give back to the community at the same time.

“Us buying this is supporting her family and then when we’re selling it to our local customers, they’re supporting our families and in turn we’re keeping the money back in the local economy,” said Gillette. local-first 122016

Local First and business owners say the holiday season is a big time of year for local shops.

“Holidays are always our best time of the year, everyone’s in a great mood, we carry more inventory during the holidays so that we really can get those gift items for customers,” said Gillette.

It’s an opportunity for the shops to bring in sales, while giving shoppers a way to save a little.

“We even have our own locally-owned dollar store in Grand Rapids. They have gift bags, Christmas wrapping paper, and it’s all $1 each,” said Josh Depenbrok, Local First membership marketing coordinator. “Why go to a chain store and spend $4.50 for something when you can get it for $1 and support a local member, local business in our community.”

Local First, based out of Grand Rapids, says it’s the best year yet to shop local. Nearly 900 stores are associated with Local First, with more options now than ever before.

To learn more about the local businesses involved with Local First, click here.