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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

November 29, 2013 at 10:31 AM

Social responsibility and holiday shopping

People who want to be citizens instead of “consumers” face a conundrum during the hyper-commercialized holiday shopping season. America consumes more than it produces, adding to greenhouse gasses through the 10,000-mile supply chain and killing jobs through the trade deficit. The temptation is to drop out.

But we want to give gifts. Not only that, but the economy is heavily dependent on consumer spending (although not, technically, 70 percent, because that includes health care expenditures).

In other words, your spending helps pay for my job and likely vice versa. Performance during the holidays can make the difference whether your favorite stores stay open or not.

Still, people can choose responsibly where their spending goes. They can shop at locally owned small businesses, or chains that pay decent wages and offer real benefits to their employees. Get on “the tubes” and do some research.

In Seattle, this is more complicated. We’re rich in small shops. But some retail chains such as Nordstrom, Costco and REI, are headquartered in the metro area. So a purist small business approach risks hurting companies that provide good jobs locally and are among the better actors in big retail.

Amazon is an enemy of Main Street retail but it is a backbone of Seattle’s economic recovery. What to do? If you live here, it is probably responsible to spend some at Amazon.

And what about Macy’s? It maintains a downtown department store, one of the relatively few in America, in the landmark Bon Marche building. It sponsors the magical holiday parade. Target and TJ Max have opened downtown stores, adding to a rich mix of chains and local stores in the core. Nothing is greener than shopping downtown, especially via transit.

So have a happy holiday season. But remember that every dollar you spend is a vote, either in favor of a retailer’s policies or, by withholding it, against them.

And don’t forget that many on your list will be pleased by a gift in their name to your favorite charities.

Also, if you haven’t voted in my holiday spending poll, please do so now.

And Don’t Miss: On the register’s other side, little money to spend | NY Times

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Black’s Friday’s meaning

The economy, not much

The freak show, you bet

Comments | More in Retail

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