With the promise of being cheaper, easier and more convenient, ecommerce sales for goods and services have risen from $186.2 billion in 2012 to $870.8 billion in 2021. Not only do these promises not always come true, but corporate online behemoths like Amazon, Walmart, Expedia, and Target have been consistently called out for employing generally damaging tactics like not paying sales and corporate income tax, fostering poor working conditions for their employees and offering poor customer service, not to mention contributing significantly to increased carbon emissions and costing communities money through government subsidies and relying on welfare programs to keep wages low.
Shopping online is also just plain bad for our local economy – our 2020 Local Matters: Measuring Impact Report showed that if Amazon’s annual online sales in Barnstable County had occurred in independent retailers, they would support 125 additional retail outlets and 1,739 additional jobs – but some of us have lost sight of where to find some our the goods and services we want and need locally. So, we put together the following list of some of the most popular products sold online and where you can find them across Cape Cod.
The number of independent bookstores may have fallen across the United States, but there are still SO many great bookstores on the Cape that provide vibrant and informative gathering places where can get any book you want. If you need help finding one of the great locally owned bookshops check out the Cape and Islands Bookstore Trail for a pretty comprehensive list. And don’t forget you can shop online directly with most of them, or you can use Bookshop.org, where every sale supports local bookstores (the audiobook platform Libro.fm performs the same service for those who prefer to listen instead of reading).
It’s seemingly easy to go to an online travel site to book your getaway, but there are many reasons to engage with a local travel agent instead. Travel agents like Susan Peavy out of Harwich are more likely to get you the lowest price – it’s their job to know all the best places to get you the best value and they’ve got connections in the industry and can likely get you added perks. Plus, their free service will save you time and energy and they’re in your corner if something goes wrong during your trip.
Side note: if you have friends visiting the Cape, there are plenty of locally owned hotels and B&Bs to recommend, but if they are looking for a house rental, have them check out the rental listings by the locally owned company WeNeedAVacation.com
Electronics + Small Appliances
While many of the local electronics shops were put out of business a couple of decades ago by big box stores, a few have remained in the fight. You can find things like televisions, wireless networking equipment, speakers at Nantucket Sound in Hyannis and Advanced Audio & Video in Orleans, and small kitchen appliances like food processors, blenders and air friers can be found at local hardware stores or home goods stores like Snow’s Home & Garden.
Don’t forget that sites like ebay, Poshmark and Mercari are not the only places to find high-quality second-hand clothing, shoes, jewelry, home goods, furniture and antiques. You can check items out in person and avoid the hassle of returns or dissatisfaction. Locally owned consignment shops like Whimsy in Harwich, Changing Tides Consignment in Chatham, Wicked Thrift in Yarmouth, Vintage in Vogue in Orleans and Consigning Women in Harwich have carefully curated collections of clothing and accessories. You can find great selection of consigned fine furniture at At Home Again in Chatham. Other spots to check out for thrift are 606 Thrift Ave in Hyannis and the Cape Abilities Thrift in Yarmouth. And you don’t have to go any further than driving along 6A to find some of the best antique shops in New England.
In recent years, a lot of people turn to YouTube or services like Udemy to learn a new skill or foster a talent. But there are many local spots where you can do both of those things while getting in-person instruction from a local expert. Learn to play guitar, piano or violin at Steeple Street Music Academy in Mashpee, Catie Flynn Music in Harwich, House of Jam in Hyannis, Washashore Music in Orleans or Cape Symphony in Barnstable. Take up origami, refresh your knowledge of American History, learn photography at the Academy of Lifelong Learning of Cape Cod, develop your culinary or computer skills at the Upper Cape Tech, revive your knowledge of Spanish or match at the Cape Cod Technical High School, or take an art class or ten at one of the many cultural organizations across Cape Cod.
One last note: apparently Amazon’s wedding gift registry more than doubled in 2021 compared to 2020. These days it is clearly impossible not to have a wedding gift registry online, but there are services that enable you to link gift ideas from local stores. So, when planning a wedding (or a baby shower), consider using Zola, MyRegistry.com or Blueprint to keep the love local.