It’s always a relief when you go into a local store and find the perfect item that you’ve been looking for. Next you turn over the price tag and see a price you wish was lower. What’s the first thought that comes to mind these days? I wonder if I can find this online for less? Typically the answer is Yes! I admit it is exciting to find a deal, but what kind of impact is this having on the stores that maintain a showroom full of products. What’s happening is that these stores are losing sales, cutting back inventory and they are closing.
What if brick & mortar showrooms no longer existed? How would you see a product in person? How would you know what the quality, scale, color or texture was like? All local stores depend on sales from the products they offer to pay the overhead of maintaining a showroom. They cannot survive if customers use their resources to make a buying decision and then go online to buy the same product for less. Isn’t there value in being able to physically see a product and be educated about it before making a purchase? Are we really that in love with shopping online and at these huge Big Box stores that take 1 hour just to get through?
Who suffers if small local stores close their doors? The answer is the customer and the community will suffer. As a consumer you will no longer have a multitude of small businesses to shop from. Big Box stores carry a limited selection and it’s hard to find something unique or made in America at those types of stores. Independent shops select products based, not on a national sales plan, but on their own interests and the needs of their local customers, which guarantees a much broader range of product choices and quality.
When you purchase from a locally owned business the benefits are tremendous to your local community. The following are the positive affects small businesses have in their community:
- Locally owned businesses create more jobs locally and, in some sectors, provide better wages and benefits than chains do.
- Revenue goes back into the local economy, enriching the whole community and builds a stronger local economy.
- Communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character have an economic advantage.
- Local ownership ensures that important decisions are made locally by people who live in the community and who will feel the impacts of those decisions.
- Ensuring Choice and Diversity in products and services offered. Even though a single local shop may have a smaller selection than a big chain outlet, a multiplicity of independent retailers creates great diversity.
The other great part about spending your dollars at smaller, independent stores it that you will more likely be buying products that are made in America. If you take a look at products in the Big Box stores or online, 9 times out of 10 they are made in other countries. Why not purchase items that are made here in the States, especially since our economy needs a boost. You may end up spending 10-20% more, but we’ve also found that products made in the USA are better quality, which means you won’t be replacing them as soon. This will save you money in the long run.
There are some practical reasons to stay away from companies that aren’t local too. First of all, what happens when you order a product and it isn’t the correct item or maybe it’s damaged? It’s frustrating to email “customer service” and not get a response. Their 800 number says to leave a message. There’s nowhere to go and no one to help resolve the issue. When you purchase an item from a local store, you have somewhere to go when a product is defective. In general, customer service is more personal and responsive with a local shop. You’re not just another order number; you’re a person living within the same community.
So what can we do? There is a new movement called the 3/50 project. Their thought is “spend $50 and save your local economy.” Basically the 3/50 project goes like this, pick 3 stores that you don’t want to see go out of business. Spend $50 per month in these stores. If you can’t afford $50, spend what you can. They project that “for every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures. If you spend that in a national chain, only $43 stays here. Spend it online and nothing comes home.” If you want to read more about this movement visit www.the350project.net.
Locally owned businesses build strong communities by sustaining vibrant town centers, connecting neighbors through economic and social relationships, and contributing to local causes. Wouldn’t you rather have a local showroom as a resource for making purchasing decisions vs. looking at products on your computer screen? Don’t you want to support your own community and keep revenue where you live? The buying decision is yours, the customer.
Layla S. Altman, ASID is the co-owner of Posh Living in Surfside Beach. She can be reached at 238-0078 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2011 by Layla S. Altman. May not be reproduced without permission.