I’d like to pose the question “why stop and shop from local businesses?” Let’s face it, we live in a global economy. Think about your last 10 purchases. I’d venture to say that most of the items were produced outside of your local community (probably even in a different country). Things are so easily accessible now, and we are so connected with other parts of the world that we don’t think twice about where the items we purchase come from, and how our purchases may effect our local communities. Have you ever thought how the growth of a global economy may effect your local economy? So, again, I ask “why stop and shop from local businesses?” Let me give you some reasons to consider.
Why You Should Purchase From Locally Owned Businesses
The first reason to stop and shop locally is to help keep dollars in the local economy. It is really simple. Locally owned businesses definitely recycle a bigger share of their revenue back into the local economy, especially when you compare them to the big chain stores. As an accountant, I learned in my studies just how quickly money cycles out of a local economy as people shop more and more at the large chain stores. This is a big reason why in some areas the smaller, local businesses go out of business as the big corporations come in.
The second big reason to stop and shop locally is to support local jobs and provide better wages. Obviously locally owned businesses support the creation of more local jobs. In most industries, locally owned businesses also offer better pay and benefits in comparison to the large chains.
Another reason to stop and shop locally is to support entrepreneurship in your community. Why is entrepreneurship so important? The support of entrepreneurship serves as an important means for individuals and families to get out of low-wage occupations and into the middle class. Our country thrives off of the innovation of entrepreneurs. They fuel our economic prosperity. This is also a great answer to our economic problems that we are facing right now.
The list of reasons goes on and on. Next time you are wanting to head out the door and drive to the nearest “big box” super market, stop and think about supporting local business…your support is needed!
“Shop locally” is a maxim that we would do well to heed if we want our local communities to thrive. In a time when we can order what we want while we sit in our dens and have it delivered within two days, straight to our doors, it takes a real commitment to choose to shop at the stores and businesses run by our friends and neighbors.
As the mom-and-pop stores have been squeezed out by chains and national businesses and corporations, small to medium sized towns have lost some of the flavor of the history of their communities. When I was a youngster in Cushing, Oklahoma, Mr. Josh would put a sign on the door to his hardware store for two weeks in the middle of summer. The sign simply said, “Vacation. Back in two weeks.” We all knew what it meant. Mr. Josh had taken his lovely wife of over 30 years off to their cabin on the lake where he would fish and she would read, and they would neither answer the phone nor leave the cabin until their vacation time was up. If you needed a hammer, you could either wait two weeks or drive to Drumright. The upside of that was that Mr. Josh took a personal interest in each customer and was willing to work with them every way that he could to see that they were satisfied. That doesn’t seem to happen so often now.
Last week after reading several articles about the devastating effect of supermarkets on local communities and the environment, I decided to experiment with only using local shops. I often use the big supermarkets, usually because of the availability of cheep organic staples such as rice, pasta, and tea and coffee, and then I use local fruit and veg shops, farmers markets and my box-scheme. This week I used the local shops, and my local organic supermarket.
I have to say that the experience was far more pleasant and interesting than a trip to Stresscos. The kids enjoyed it as they could go by scooter (more fun than a car journey) and our local organic shop offers each child a free apple to eat while they are there which also goes down very well. I managed to leave without having spent twice as much as I planned (my usual supermarket weakness), despite letting the kids choose lots of unusual things, and left with a basket of exciting foods, resulting in some interesting and tasty family meals.
Great things about shopping locally:
o A good brisk walk to the shops or local market several times a week will keep you fitter, cut down on vehicle emissions, banish petrol and parking costs, and support local retailers. Several smaller shopping journeys may also cut down on food wastage, as you will be more in tune with what you need and less inclined to bulk buy. Forget ‘old fogey’ and go New Fogey with a funky shopping trolley so that you can wheel larger amounts of shopping home, and protect your back.
o Buy a basket or some sturdy bags to cut down on plastic in the environment. Most things do not need plastic bags and can be put straight into a basket or bag. Plastic does not degrade; breaking into ever smaller pieces until it becomes a toxic residue poisoning the environment and responsible for the destruction of complex marine environments. 60% of household waste is from packaging, much of which is unnecessary. An average US household will spend over $500 on packaging; cut down on packaging and you can afford a weekend in Paris!
o Seek out local organic supermarkets and health food stores and you may be able to refill your Ecover cleaning product bottles; for me this will prevent over 100 plastic bottles each year being discarded. (I recycle plastic bottles, but recycling plastic has its own environmental issues, and it is better to cut down on plastic use). Also look out for shops where you can scoop dry stuff out of bins, this is often cheaper as well.
o Don’t always believe the big supermarkets advertising; not everything is cheaper there. In 2002 Friends of The Earth found that a kilo of Tesco apples were more expensive than a market stall, and more than a greengrocer. The big stores spend millions on advertising to entice you to buy what you didn’t know you wanted, and don’t need. Stores are laid out to influence people’s decisions on what to buy. (One big chain placed 6 packs of beer next to diapers to entice men who are asked to grab an emergency pack of diapers on the way home from work!) Research showed that 50% of purchases are decided on AFTER entering Tescos. Shop locally and avoid brainwashing!
o Shopping locally will put more money back into the local economy, and help support our farmers. Spending S10 in your butchers shop on local meat will generate $24 for the local community, whereas spending $10 in a large supermarket generates only $14 for the local community. Farmers are pressured by large supermarkets to produce cheaper and cheaper foods (leading to increased use of fertilizer, pesticides, etc), while the supermarkets have steadily increased the prices on the same foods. Large supermarkets may pay as little as a penny per chicken, and will make large profits on potatoes (buy a sack from a local farm shop). Often the farmers receive less money than the crop cost to grow. In 2003 Terry Leahy of Tesco earned $2,838,000 (I bet he doesn’t buy value beans), and an average farmer in the same year would have earned (including farming subsidies) $11,107.
Using local shops, farmers markets, farms shops etc offers many other benefits; getting to taste before you buy, seeing lots of local fresh produce; artisan cheeses, vegetables, cider, breads, supporting small businesses and producers. You may choose and discover more interesting things to try with your family, bringing more variety into your diet and more discussion to the dinner table. You will certainly be doing your bit to cut down on environmental damage, and support your local economy. You may be able to reduce food wastage in your home, or save money. Give it a try for a week or two; if anything, it breaks the monotony of the weekly supermarket visit, and gives you a feeling that you are doing something more positive than merely lining the pockets of the supermarket shareholders
When you spend your hard earned dollars just where does the money go? Is it funneled back into your community or does it god to enhance the economy of some distant corporate town perhaps thousands of miles from your home? In 2012, this is a fundamentally important question to ask. I believe strongly that we should be thinking locally if we are going to have a strong economy and a vibrant community. Let me just list a few of the problems as I see them…
If you spend your money in your local Walmart the profits are realized in Bentonville, Arkansas. Target shoppers, your dollars are transferred to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Shop at Bed Bath and Beyond and you enrich the company located in Union, New Jersey. K-Mart shoppers send their dollars to Hoffman Estates, Illinois. And this is just the short list!
Oh sure, by shopping at these big box stores you claim you are saving money. But pick up the shirt you pay a mere pittance for and note that it was manufactured in some sweatshop in a far away land like Viet Nam, Singapore, India Pakistan or some other third-world country. Note the quality of the workmanship and the care taken in manufacture; generally not so hot. While you are doing this also remember that for every job outsourced to these far away places one equivalent job is lost in the United States.
While that seems harsh, even more problematic is the fact that for every big box store that is built, local businesses close. The big box is like a vacuum cleaner sucking the very life out of a community, replacing the strength that small businesses bring to a community with low-paying (often minimum wage) jobs while sucking the profits out of the community and sending them to distant towns and cities.
So what’s the solution to this madness? Without sounding like a shopping terrorist, I believe that we must begin to think locally before we think globally. When given the opportunity the right thing to do is look for local merchants that supply the same things that you can buy at your local big box store. Sure, you may pay a bit more but you can be assured that the money you spend will be put back into the community, create jobs in the community and strengthen the economic well being of the community.
One great place to start is to shop locally for the food that you put on your table. Local farmer’s markets introduce you to local growers and that means that you are getting the freshest fruits and vegetables available. Often these growers are also either certified organic farmers or grow with organic methods so you aren’t pumping genetically modified Frankenfood into your or your kid’s bodies.
In the long run, shopping locally is good for all of us. It keeps money local to strengthen our local economy, creates jobs for local citizens both by discouraging outsourcing to foreign lands and by allowing local small business owners to reinvest and expand at home, thereby strengthening our community and it creates a greater sense of community by building bridges between local businesses and local residents.