the “shop ypsi for the holidays” campaign gets off the ground

I think it’s pretty clear that the folks at the “Ann Arbor News” are with us on the “Buy Local” campaign. On Friday, the paper ran an editorial challenging people to buy local during the holidays, and today they ran an op-ed by our friends Amanda Edmonds and Richard Murphy on the same subject. Here, first, is a clip from Friday’s “Ann Arbor News” editorial:

…May you spend your hard-earned money wisely, with the knowledge that what you buy and where you buy it really does make a difference – to you, your family, your community and the world…

And here’s the op-ed by Amanda and Murph in its entirety (because the “Ann Arbor News” doesn’t archive them online for very long) :

In the midst of worsening economic conditions in our region, we have an opportunity to make lemonade out of lemons. More appropriately, maybe, we have the chance to press apple cider out of apple seconds bought at our local farmers’ market.

While the second analogy doesn’t flow as well as the one we are used to, it represents a shift in thinking that would bring quantifiable economic benefits to our communities. In Ypsilanti, particularly hard hit by municipal budget cuts and taxation challenges, supporting and recruiting locally owned businesses can have a multifold impact on our economic viability.

Recently, the “Buy Local” and “Eat Local” trends have been receiving a lot of attention – the word “locavore” was just declared Oxford’s 2007 Word of the Year. Often, attention is focused on the emotional and social benefits of buying and eating local: knowing the people you’re buying from, feeling good about supporting local farmers and businesses, getting good customer service and supporting minority and women-owned businesses.

The impacts are real and help strengthen the social fabric of a community. The benefits, however, of buying locally have economic impacts beyond the immediate business owner. Studies from around the country show that buying from local, independent retailers creates up to twice as many jobs, recirculates three times as many dollars in the local economy, and results in twice as much local charitable giving than buying from large chain or Internet retailers does.

Locally owned businesses direct all of their wages to people in the community, support other businesses – from graphic designers to accountants – more likely to be from the area. For every dollar spent at a local business, the studies have found, 20 to 40 cents more stays in the local economy when compared to a chain store. That equals significant economic impact.

Holiday spending is a great opportunity to begin the shift. A Maritz Poll shows that American households will spend an average of $637 on holiday gifts this year – at this rate, Washtenaw County will do $89 million in holiday shopping. By moving some of the spending that we would do at chain retailers to local retailers, we can capture some of the benefits locally. If Washtenaw holiday shoppers shifted only 10 percent of their holiday spending to local businesses in Ypsilanti, we could keep between $1.5 million and $2.6 million more in our economy. No small change.

To be clear, we are not promoting more consumption – just shifting 10 percent of what you already spend to local retailers with those dollars. Dec. 1-8 is Buy Local Week. Visit and pledge to spend your holiday dollars locally. You’ll find a community-built directory of local businesses and creative ideas for local gifts. Visit the 4th Shadow Art Fair ( on Dec. 1 to buy art, music, clothing and crafts directly from 50 local artists.

Policymakers and business groups can support this idea at a broader scale. While biomedical and “knowledge industry” tech startups are high-profile, capturing dollars from everyday purchases such as groceries or clothing is also economic development.

Using the most recent income and spending data from the state of Michigan and Bureau of Labor Statistics, residents of the city of Ypsilanti spend an estimated $10.3 million on clothing and footwear annually, and $7.9 million on housewares, furniture and appliances. Depot Town and downtown Ypsilanti have several independent retailers in those categories, but our guess is that they aren’t capturing nearly $18 million in annual revenue from city residents.

Another often-missed market opportunity is in the supply chain for local businesses. What manufacturing or service or supply needs can be met locally? Agriculture is Michigan’s second largest industry by dollar value. Michigan is a national leader in specialty produce, and consumer demand for local food is skyrocketing.

City of Ypsilanti residents spend an estimated $4 million on fruits and vegetables annually, an average of $453 per household. In 2007, the downtown Farmers Market saw $28,000 in sales. If we could move beyond our growing farmers markets and supply our local restaurants with fruits, vegetables, herbs and breads produced or processed in our community, the economic impact multiplier only increases – consider the additional jobs and shortening of the supply chain, not to mention reduced transportation expenses and carbon footprints.

We surprised ourselves when we calculated those figures. Amid all of the bad news about the local and state economies, we were very happy to discover how easy it would be to create local jobs and capture dollars within the local economy just by shifting a small portion of the spending that we’ll already do…

And, on top of all of this, I’m told that intrepid girl reporter Jordan Miller is working on a feature for the Community section of the “Ann Arbor News” featuring a number of the locally-owned and operated businesses we feature in the upcoming brochure. All the pieces really seem to coming together. Now, hopefully, it will help our retailers.

As you may have noticed in the op-ed above, our Shop Ypsi for the Holidays site is now up and running. There are still a few things missing, but we’ve got the Buy Local Challenge that we’ve been talking about up and running, and a PDF of the brochure we’ve been working on should be up later today. If you plan to do a majority of your shopping here in Ypsi this holiday season, sign it, and let everyone know that you support our Ypsi merchants and want for them to succeed.

Thanks again to all the volunteers who got this initiative off the ground. It’s really amazing what a small group of people can do with relatively few resources when they believe is something.

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  1. Posted November 25, 2007 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Really? Only $435/year per household on fruits/veggies? That’s less than $10/week! Assuming average HH size is at least two, that’s less than a $1/day per person. Wow.

  2. Posted November 25, 2007 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    The Buy Local website looks great, and I like the idea to allow people to publicly pledge directly on the site. One (unsolicited) comment on it: on the pledge options drop-down menu, it is unclear whether one is pledging to buy local just for the holidays, or for all time. Although the holiday theme of the site, the banner itself, and the text on the page suggests that the pledge is holiday-focused, I wonder if people might be put off by the drop-down menu into thinking that they are being asked to pledge to always buy local. If that is not in fact what you are intending, you might just want to edit the drop-down so that it states “I pledge to do 100%/X% of my holiday shopping locally”.

    Also, I’d be happy to put up fliers for this at some point, if you are planning to do that.

  3. John on Forest
    Posted November 25, 2007 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    I posted this on the Buy Local website blog but am putting it here too. I think this is a great way to help Ypsilanti thrive.

    I was amazed that more of the stores in Depot Town (for example) were not listed.

    Here are a few idea for folks:

    Buy someone a gift card for Cafe Luwak. $20 gets you a $25 card.

    Go out to the Wittikar Road Ypsilanti District Library and shop that the “Friends Shop” The money goes to support the library, including the downtown branch.

    How about a Corner Brewery Mug Membership for the beer drinker in your family? Or a growler they can use over and over?

    Does anyone know where Michigan Ladder ladders retail? You don’t have to shop inside Ypsilanti to support that Ypsilanti business.

    What about the non-bricks and mortar businesses? I don’t know of any, except my wife’s art website (see the link under my name); but, someone must be able to create a list.

    And MARK!!!

    What’s with your blog that it won’t accept this URL http://homeDOTcomcastDOTnet/~marraeshuler ???

    It also doesn’t accept my true email address which ends in .net it does accept the same email address ending in .com but that’s a bogus email for me.

  4. mark
    Posted November 25, 2007 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    First off, thanks to the dozen of so of you who have signed the Shop Ypsi for the Holidays pledge so far. It’s great to see so many people signing up and declaring in the first few hours. It’s gratifying.

    As for the brochure, yes, a few things did get left off. We did mention that you could stop by Cafe Luwak for coffee and a snack while shopping, but we left off their gift cards. We likewise mentioned that you could buy growlers from the Brewery, along with pint glasses, but we left off the Mug Club memberships. We didn’t have the room to be all inclusive. We also left off all of the restaurants, even though they all offer things like tshirts and gift certificates. There just wasn’t room. Our hope was that much of that could be addressed on the website, through the blog, etc.

    A few other ideas that weren’t listed in the brouchure… How about a gift certificate for a massage? Or how about a few hours of house cleaning? There are always local people advertising their services at the Co-op… And I believe there’s a fellow who comments here on occasion that sells a weekly fresh flower subscription service. All of that, I’m hoping, could find a place online.

    And, as you all know, I’ve got Ypsipanties for sale. (I thought that it would have come across as self-serving if I’d mentioned in the brochure, but they’re available at VG Kids.)

  5. mark
    Posted November 25, 2007 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    I only pledged at 80% as I’ve got some new books to buy, etc. I will, however, be buying them from Amazon, through my site (see link in the right hand column), though, which does keep some of hte money local. (I get a small commission on everything slod through the link.)

  6. Posted November 25, 2007 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    Mark, you could buy them from an Ann Arbor Bookstore – Shaman Drum or Nicolas. While they’re not in Ypsi (and ok, no Mark Maynard kickback), they are still pretty local and a heck of a lot better than Amazon. I see it as regions – first your neighborhood, then your city, then just outside your city, then State of MI (we definitely need the sales tax!)

    Thanks to people who keep mentioning suggestions. I keep changing up the ones on our website, and am trying to keep a number of Ypsilanti suggestions on there…and at least one of you has given me a great idea for my mom (who lives in Ypsi, as it is)

  7. Posted November 26, 2007 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Did people see the great article about the Strassels and Quinn’s in the business section of the A2 News yesterday? At the end of the article they linked to the site, but they also put a http://www., which unfortunately I think means it won’t work. Here’s the link:

  8. Posted November 26, 2007 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    I fixed it so the site will show up with a www in front of it. Mark had pointed that out to me last week with the version that ended with .com and I thought I updated all possible versions, but I missed a change at the DNS server. So it should work now unless you already tried it then it could take a couple of hours to start working because DNS servers cache addresses. Thanks for pointing that out Lisa.

  9. Ol' E Cross
    Posted November 26, 2007 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    I’ll be offering a special service to local shoppers this season. Give me your holiday list items that can only be found at Briarwood or Amazon and I will purchase them and resell them to you locally (from my garage) with a, I think, fair and modest markup/service fee.

    You can keep your pledge and I promise to spend every dollar earned at local watering holes. (You would all know about this by now if Mark had agreed to include my service in his biased, self-serving brochure…oh, it’s self-serving alright, he admitted that to the A2 News.)

    Nevermind. If you’re interested, look for me at the Shadow Art Fair, well, technically, 500 yards outside of the SAF at the legal limits of my “restraining” order.

    Otherwise, congrats on the good press and great print/web pieces and thanks to all who contributed.

  10. Posted November 30, 2007 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Did you see the story ran in the business section of the daily paper, too?

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