“Shop local” is one of the clarion calls of the day to rally the economy. But why should you take your hard-earned dollars to an independent, local retailer when you could get a better price at a chain store across town? Here are ten very good reasons why, for your benefit and for others around you.
1. Shortens the Drive
Shopping locally means you spend less money on gas, and less time on errands. Compare carefully what you save when you drive across town for a sale. If the local store charges a bit more for goods, is it really worth fighting traffic and filling the gas tank more often?
2. Ecologically Sound
Keeping your purchases in as tight a circle as possible to your home is an environmentally-friendly habit. Limiting your transportation emissions doesn't just help endangered species in far off regions, but is beneficial first to the people in your community. Cleaner air is a good thing.
3. Ensures Availability
By shopping regularly at local small businesses, you help keep their doors open. The next time your car breaks down, wouldn't it be nice to have it towed a short distance to the neighborhood mechanic, where you can walk to pick it up? Or consider the happenstance of being snowed in – independent grocers and pharmacies within walking distance would be pretty handy. A community with a spectrum of small businesses that offer products for your daily needs is a rare thing. You may not need the walking-distance factor, but your neighbors might rely on it.
4. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
Local Mom & Pop shops often sustain not only the owners within the community, but the workers as well. Your business there supports your neighbors, and offers part time opportunities for your teens in close proximity to home.
5. Supports Local Products
Did you know that eating locally-produced honey can help reduce allergies? That's just one example of the personal benefits of buying local. Locally-produced food is fresher and often organic. Compare that to genetically modified produce bred to survive a cross-country and beyond trip (but tastes like cardboard). And what about local talent? Your community’s artists and craftsmen benefit, too. Read labels and get to know who makes what.
Big box stores may offer a lot of stuff, but small local shops offer real treasures you wouldn't find anywhere else. If you are dependent on a one-stop-shopping experience, ask a local store owner to consider stocking it, or order it for you. Local owners have a feel for what the community wants, and provide it. At a farmer's market, you may be surprised to find varieties of produce you have never seen, or would never have discovered otherwise, because they are grown from heirloom seeds – time-tested seed varieties handed down through family and friends. Your purchases ensure that your plate is full of a variety of choices.
Sure, your neighborhood could be a cookie cutter copy of Any Town, USA. Chain stores, fast food, pricey coffee, brand boutiques – you could live with that. But when you step outside, would you know where you are? Your community will only develop “local flavor” with its own unique concoction of independent shops. Big cities get that small town feel when interconnected cells develop, tiny little worlds strung together, each featuring its own stand-out products, eye-catching storefronts, and friendly service.
8. Neighbors and Friends
As you frequent local stores and get acquainted with workers and owners, your world shrinks a little and becomes a friendlier place. No matter where you live in the world, one of the best crime-fighting strategies is to know your neighbor. Tight-knit communities offer the security of lower crime rates, but also the Mayberry-esque camaraderie of knowing the local grocer, pharmacist, florist, and baker on a first-name basis.
Getting to know small business owners is a good way to spread the word about your own ventures. A small businessman can appreciate the challenges of an entrepreneur. Take your business card on your shopping trips, and look for bulletin boards to advertise your services.
10. Stronger Communities
Taking your business to local stores is an investment in your community – roads, schools, health and emergency services – the benefits are personal and communal. Local businessmen are more likely to re-invest in their community than a chain store whose corporate offices are far removed from the concerns of your world. According to a study by Civic Economics in 2002, local businesses in Austin returned an average of $45 for every $100 earned to the local economy. The community only realized $13 for every $100 spent at chain stores. According to the study, local stores “provide strong support for local artists and authors, creating further economic impact.”¹
Next time you make your shopping list or search for a needed service, begin your search within a small radius of your home!