Buying Local: How it Helps and Why You Should Care

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In a world where big box stores aim to monopolize on market goods, local economies have struggled to maintain a firm hold. From small towns to big cities, local store owners face perhaps the biggest retail challenge in staying afloat amongst the big fish in the economic sea as national chains sweep in and displace locally owned businesses on a nationwide scale.

The homogenizing trend of chain stores (and big profits) has created an advertising age in which the consumer is fed trends and incentives to buy big or go home. The push for “best price” has disregarded the values that independent businesses provide us, both personally and within our communities.

What the support of local businesses does for local economies:

When you buy from independent, locally owned businesses, you are investing in the local economy. That is, significantly more of the money that you spend is reinvested back into the local economy on the whole, via local payrolls and salaries, local owners, and most importantly, local taxes. These all add up, and as money circulates, it enriches local schools, infrastructure, and vital community services. This creates a cyclic prosperity within the community, as local businesses also buy from other local businesses and service providers. These supporting services and entrepreneurs include architects, contractors, attorneys, advertising agencies, and many more. By employing more local people on the whole (not just direct employees), these businesses more easily overcome this type of retail challenge and continue to feed wealth back into the community.

Why it makes a difference:

Tax revenues are generally the biggest benefit of and biggest incentive for buying local. For every one dollar you spend locally, 3 times more money is returned to the local economy versus one dollar spent at a chain store. The icing on the cake? They also generate more tax revenue per sales dollar. This all feeds into local exchanges and expands the local economy.

By supporting the local economy, there is also a personal investment into the community, not only from a financial standpoint, but ethically as well. Locally owned businesses create more quality jobs of higher morale, and in many cases, provide better wages and benefits than the big chains do. This ethical consideration is huge, as there are often “hidden” costs that come with the low prices of national chains. The low product prices may seem phenomenal, but when considering the extremely low wage earned by all employees in order to maintain such a low price, one can reason that paying a slightly higher price for an item sourced locally by employees who are valued at higher rates of pay creates higher morale not only within the company, but as those employees participate within other aspects of the community as well.

How to help people look beyond price:

Price is the key player in consumer preference, and it can be a huge challenge for local businesses to maintain prices that compete with the big guys. But there is something to be said about what buying local means overall, particularly as consumer and business benefits intermingle. These factors all add up to create a powerful incentive for the “Buy Local” movement.

Buying local insights better service and higher product quality. Local businesses tend to hire employees that learn a better understanding of the products they are selling and take more time to get to know the needs of the customer. Not to mention, more room for unique (and higher quality) products on the local scale, versus buying goods from big box stores that market mass produced items purely for the purpose of maximizing profit. Small businesses are able to customize products they sell, based on the needs and desires of local people instead of a generic national sales plan. This guarantees a much broader range of appropriate product choices and a marketplace that nurtures innovation.

Local businesses provide a powerful sense of community, adding a sense of character to that cannot be matched via big chain stores. From a tourism standpoint, these types of businesses provide fantastic economic support . When people go on vacation, they specifically seek these types of unique neighborhood destinations, driving sales further and providing extra help to ease the retail challenges faced by smaller local businesses.  This personal imprint really impacts people, and can be used as a powerful tool to drive customers to local markets.

At the end of the day, buying local is about buying appropriately-crafted products that speak to individual consumers, all at fair prices that nurture the economic prosperity of local communities. It’s also about the best value for a consumer’s time and money. Value certainly includes reasonable pricing, but extends beyond the fiscal implications to include ethical and moral prosperity as well. Communities are empowered by the Buy Local movement, and an increase in customer appreciation of this trend will continue to help ease this pervasive retail challenge.