Kevin Bacon Wants People To Skip The Department Stores And Shop Locally

He has joined a national campaign that was started in Somerville and Cambridge to spread the word this holiday season.

A grassroots movement that started as a collaboration between two organizations in Somerville and Cambridge, and has since turned into a national campaign, is calling on the help of actor Kevin Bacon to get their message across for the holiday shopping season.

In a nearly two-minute infomercial-style message, Bacon, wearing a fake mustache and wig, is pushing for people to buy gifts from local establishments, rather than relying on “big-box stores” when crossing off items on their holiday wish lists.

Bacon’s celebrity support is for Shift Your Shopping, started in 2009 when Cambridge Local First and Somerville Local First teamed up to encourage consumers to keep their money flowing through independently owned businesses in order to bolster the neighborhood economy.

Now a nationally recognized movement, Shift Your Shopping picked up Bacon’s backing for the busy buying season, and added an additional element to the initiative, through a partnership with Causetown, called “Shift Your Shopping For Good.”

Select stores participating in the Shift Your Shopping For Good program will donate a portion of the proceeds from item sales to a charity of the buyers’ choice, making it a “two-for-one” deal according to Bacon’s infomercial. There are currently more than 200 small businesses on the list of participants for the new campaign. Organizers are playing on the “Six Degrees of Separation” concept often associated with the actor, by using the hashtag #SixDegrees to support their mission.

“We are blessed. We have been doing this work for so long, and haven’t had the type of celebrity endorsement and support like this before,” said Joe Grafton, a former Somerville resident and chairman of the Shift Your Shopping Steering Committee. Grafton has been involved with the campaign since it got its roots planted in Somerville and Cambridge five years ago.

“[This latest movement] was a mixture of the right people, the right time, and the right network,” he said, adding that he hasn’t met Bacon yet, but he imagines the universe will somehow line them up to cross paths. “At the end of the day, we are going into the biggest shopping season of the year, and we are going up against big-box chains and online megastores that have endless money to market and promote their business. We are doing this with no budget, from a grass roots perspective. Getting any type of celebrity endorsement not only helps us reach a broader audience, but it gives people a shot in the arm locally.”

Grafton said the aim of the campaign is to change peoples’ shopping habits on a national level, year-round, by getting them to buy items at locally owned, independent stores first and foremost.

Jon Hurst, President of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, is pushing a similar message—although it’s not connected to the Shift Your Shopping campaign. Hurst said he hopes as people head off to the stores on Black Friday, they keep in mind that the mom and pop shops that make up “Main Street” need business too, in order to keep their doors open.

“Local stores collects sales tax, they employ people, and give back to the community at a higher rate,” he said. “Local spending efforts are important, it’s a message that needs to be spread nationally.”

In Boston, Mayor Tom Menino’s office is also trying to keep business in the area, by offering free parking on select days around the city so that shoppers can pop into retail locations without worrying about parking tickets.

The city will be offering two hours of free parking at meters on six days this holiday season. The list can be found on the city’s website.

For those that do get a ticket, however, they can choose to resolve it by purchasing a non-violent, unwrapped toy of equal or greater value than the ticket, and dropping it off at City Hall. The exchange applies only to tickets written between December 2, through December 4, in order for them to be eligible for the exchange program.