One of my oldest and fondest memories of childhood is Saturday shopping with my mom. The day would start with my Nanny taking me “bumming.” Before retail stores opened, we would hit up as many garage sales as we could. After Nanny and I got our loot, my mom and I would hop in the car and head to the Jamestown Mall in St. Louis. The sunlight shone in my eyes, and the radio played a variety of female artists. I remember a combination of Madonna, The Bangles, and Debbie Gibson. “Ooo, heaven is a place on Earth,” Belinda Carlisle cooed, and I agreed in my heart.
Fast forward to the present. I still enjoy bumming, but I don’t do it often because I dedicate any early morning free time to a quick jog. My beloved female artists of youth have been replaced by Taylor Swift, Maren Morris, and Halsey (which is no complaint—I have room in my heart for all of them!). The most notable change, however, isn’t any of the things mentioned before. Instead of driving to the mall to pick out a cute outfit for an upcoming event, I hit up my favorite local boutique. Blush is my go-to for a unique wardrobe.
Something that contributed to this change was my move to a small town. Why were they so proud of this? Because it meant that local businesses were thriving. So, shopping local is just what they did.
Sure, there are definite conveniences of malls and big-box shopping. While convenience shopping is appealing, there are many understated advantages of shopping local. The benefits are what most of us could do a better job of recognizing. Here is what you should know to shop local with purpose, and why it is an excellent thing for your community. Think of it this way: each time you shop local, you are giving your community a big hug of support.
What it Means to Be Locally-Owned and Operated
Sometimes it’s difficult to recognize a locally-owned and operated business. Or, some of us are so ingrained in our routine that we don’t consider an alternative to the way we’ve always shopped. We are spending our own money, so what difference does it make who benefits from it? Why does it matter if we shop local, or if we choose to hit the one-click button and have it delivered STAT?
The truth of the matter is that it does make a difference where you spend your money. If you care about your community, that is. Experts say that $68 of every $100 spent at a locally owned business will remain in the community. So, that means over 2/3 your spending goes back into your community.
These dollars do many things:
- The dollars go toward creating jobs. For example, think about your friends – how many of them work at a locally-owned and operated company?
- The dollars contribute to helping the environment. Meaning, when you reduce packing needed for shipments and fuel for transportation, the Earth benefits.
- The dollars also play a part in keeping your community unique. Isn’t it a sad sight to see once thriving town squares converted to ghost towns? If you shop local, you help prevent this from happening.
- If your pocketbook is your main priority, shop local to recycle your tax dollars. This reinvests what you spend back into your community. In short, the more money local businesses make, the more they pay in state and local taxes. This money is used for public projects like road work and other enhancements to your community!
- Estimates show that smaller businesses give more back where non-profits are concerned. To the tune of 250% more than their public peers! You can think of your funds spent when you shop local as the gift that keeps on giving.
Besides these things, there are many perks that you can expect when you shop local. The small, locally-owned business will take your satisfaction to heart. Their business depends on the opinions of people like you. So, most locally-owned companies will make it their priority to fulfill your wishes.
Shopping the Local Service Industry
To shop local isn’t about entering a store and coming out with a tangible product. To clarify, shopping local also includes the service industry. Services such as banking, construction, and payroll are available through local businesses. This means you aren’t obligated to use Bank of America based on their reputation as a banking giant. You could use a local bank for all your banking needs.
Yes, you could contract with Lennar, a high-volume, large-scale production builder. Or, you could use a local builder to design and build your dream home. You could process your payroll with ADP, or you could choose to stay local. Journey Employer Solutions, for example, offers a comprehensive suite of services for employers. Clients feel good about opting for a privately-owned company with a local presence.
How to Shop Local
Understanding how to shop local might seem like common sense. However, it can be difficult sometimes to tell if a business is local, or if it’s actually a cell operation of a large corporation. Some companies recognize that modern consumers prefer to shop local. Big businesses know this and use marketing strategies to gain a bigger piece of the pie. The revenue big businesses gain would otherwise go to local businesses.
Consider Starbucks, for example. The coffee powerhouse emerged as a local business in 1971 but went big in 1992 when they went public (SBUX was born). Starbucks is no dummy, however. Starbucks’s is intentional in their marketing strategy. They target consumers who like to shop local. “…think of Starbucks as just a friendly, local coffee shop…”. That’s the atmosphere they aim to create in each of their locations. They want you to walk into the coffee shop and feel rooted in your community. And you thought it was the caffeine in the coffee that you were addicted to!
So, how can you know for sure that you are about to shop local when you walk into a business? The most direct way to find out if a business is local is to call and ask. If you’d rather have the information at your fingertips, you can use an online database to conduct a search on local business. Local businesses are proud to proclaim their status. Above all, it thrills them when potential customers seek out their services.
How to Support Your Local Businesses
The best way to support your local business is to spend your money there. So shop away!
The next best way to support your local businesses is to tweet, like, share, post, tag, and review. For people entrenched in the cyber universe, these words are part of your vernacular. Perhaps you are someone who prefers actual socializing to virtual socializing. If you enjoy the face-to-face method, then do your word-of-mouth thing. The best part is that you don’t need to worry about connecting to Wi-Fi or going over your data limits to spread the word!
Be Stylish and Shop Local
While I enjoy the flashback to the 80’s style, I hope we can continue being progressive in our thinking. I like my purple polka dot scrunchy that is currently in my hair, but I don’t want to visit a mall to find one like it! In so many ways, shopping local looks good on us all.
I returned to my small town this summer and made a beeline to Silver Lining so that I could pick out a unique gift for a friend. While I shopped, my husband ducked into Vander Ploeg Bakery for some coffee and Dutch treats. He returned, excited to tell me about the newly-renovated shop. This is a testimony to the endurance of small businesses in Pella.
For the sake of communities like Pella, IA, I hope that shopping local is not a fad. Cue, “It must have been love, but it’s over now…” Instead, let’s hope that shopping local is an eternal flame.