As readers of “I Love the Upper West Side,” it’s safe to assume you love the neighborhood—perhaps now more than ever. So, to show our love, together, I’m writing to propose an idea:
Let’s commit, as a community, to shopping 100% local this holiday season.
It can be done, it needs to be done, and it need not break the bank. It’ll also get you out of the house (safely), off of Amazon, and it will make a difference to the community. A huge difference, in fact. The numbers bear it out:
Census data from five years ago showed roughly 161,000 people over the age of 18 live on the Upper West Side. A 2019 study published in USA Today found that the average American spends $1,050 on holiday shopping. Now, we can presume that such spending will go down this year, and perhaps also presume that our local population has decreased alongside people’s income going down due to COVID (hang with me—this will get more uplifting soon).
Even being very conservative with the numbers—let’s say there are now 100,000 adults on the Upper West Side (a gross underestimate), and they spend just $500 locally on their holiday shopping. Between now and January 1st, that would allow us to immediately pipe in $50 million back into our local economy. That’s right … $50 million! So if you’re sick of seeing empty storefronts, or tired of donating to GoFundMe campaigns in dire attempts to rescue fledgling hardware stores or book shops, we need to recognize that we have the power to stop it all. In fact, we’re the only ones who have that power.
So if you love your zip code, let’s … start … shopping … now.
Because we live in an age of goal-setting and metrics, if you’re so inclined, report your spending in this anonymous 15 second Google survey here and let’s see how much we can spend locally on our holiday shopping – together. Input as many times as you shop!
And by the way: The Power of Habit (pick it up at The Strand or Shakespeare & Co.) is a real thing. If you’re like me, you’ve succumbed to the Amazon habit and we need to break it together. Instead of picking up our phones to order what we need “now” (and consequently finding ourselves drowning in Amazon boxes), we need get up off the couch and go to our local stores to get what we need (the doorbell will also ring less, with fewer interruptions to your Zoom calls). If we start with holiday shopping, we might all find ourselves shopping locally more often, for more things, and hopefully for many years to come. Alternatively, we’ll continue to find ourselves bemoaning empty store fronts for many years to come.
I’ll follow up soon with ideas for where to do your holiday shopping!
Erica Woolway is the chief academic officer of the Teach Like a Champion Team at Uncommon Schools, a charter school network. She and her family are longtime residents of the Upper West Side.