When shopping local, shoppers may have a few go-to stores, but there are websites and apps that can uncover other local gems during the holiday shopping season.
ShopSmart, the shopping magazine from the publisher of Consumer Reports, recently identified websites and apps to help shoppers navigate their local businesses and even score discounts and deals.
“Shopping at local, independently owned stores doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll spend more,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. “Shoppers can use sites and apps to find coupons and other special promotions from these retailers.”
ShopSmart also conducted a national poll to find out why and where American women shop locally. Respondents deemed thrift stores/consignment shops as their favorite type of independent store by far, followed by hobby/craft supplies, clothing boutiques, bookstores and antiques.
When asked why they shopped locally, the women who had a favorite store named the following (other than price) as their top five reasons:
• Fun to browse (40 percent).
• To support small-business owners (34 percent).
• Customer service (29 percent).
• Location (27 percent).
• Unique or specialty products (25 percent).
A big plus to shopping locally is that small businesses funnel more money back into the local economy. One local purchasing study found that out of $100 spent in an independent business, about $68 goes back into the community.
Spend that same $100 at a chain store, and just $43 stays local. And local businesses sponsor sports teams and host events such as wine tastings and DIY workshops.
Shopping apps and sites
Here are some sites and apps that ShopSmart recommends for helping shoppers navigate local businesses:
• Angie’s List (angieslist.com), for hiring service providers, is known for contractors, but it also lists local businesses such as spas and physicians, along with reviews. You’ll need to subscribe; it’s about $3 per month to join (depending on where you live).
• Dealize.com helps users stay on top of local deals by sending a daily email comprised of all the day’s offers from Groupon, Living Social and other sites, which can often save 50 percent or more on local food, goods and services.
• IndependentWeStand.org is best for finding independently owned businesses by ZIP code. The database isn’t totally complete yet, but it is growing.
• Indie Bound (indiebound.org) is best for discovering local bookstores. You can also learn about author interviews and recommendations from staffers who live and breathe this stuff.
• Yahoo Local (local.yahoo.com) is best for scouting all the stores in your area. They aren’t exclusively independently owned, so you’ll have to weed out the Targets and Best Buys.
• Yelp (yelp.com) is best known for its restaurant reviews, but it also lists local shops so users can see what other people think of retailers, service pros and others. Yelp app users can score check-in discounts as well. Available for Android, Apple and Blackberry.
• Google+ Local is best for finding neighborhood restaurants, cafes and bars along with their Zagat ratings. Works on Android and Apple.
• Valpak Local Savings app features coupons for local retailers and services such as chimney cleaning and taxis. Available for Android and Apple.
• WHERE app is best for beating boredom. Check under the “Things to Do” tab for local galleries, mini golf and more. Works on Android, Apple and Blackberry.
• Yellow Pages is best for finding independent small businesses like pharmacies on the go. Works on Android, Apple and Blackberry.