For 25 years I have been a small business owner of a marketing firm focused on marketing small retail operators and shopping centers. Before I started this business, I was a Marketing Director for super regional shopping centers which was fun and challenging. But once I began my journey as an entrepreneur, I really began understanding how hard the small retailer works. In the olden days they complained about traffic, sales and competition; but that was before the Internet. In this ever-changing world of technology & social media you can’t do business as status quo, you must run, not walk, in order to keep up! I have seen everything change in the retail world and because of this I constantly ask myself, “How can we help our small retailers make it through this apocalypse of digital retail?”
I have so much compassion and empathy for Mom & Pop retailers who are hanging on by their fingernails. Amazon has “killed off” many of our regional shopping center categories such as books, soft goods, electronics, and more. We all know the new leasing strategy is to lease to those services not available online such as fine dining, massage and other service-related hands-on categories such as health clinics and beauty services. So, when we find a unique boutique, family owned toy store, or family owned restaurant it’s exciting to get to know the human being behind the curtain. They all have a story and it is fun to learn about who is serving you. They soon become your friend and the place you go to eat with friends. They almost feel like family.
When American Express developed the Shop Small program to bring awareness to how the economics work behind shopping small it took me a little time to wrap my head around how to communicate this message to the public as most people don’t care much where they purchase items, they just want it quickly, simply and for less money. There are common sense reasons to shop your community of local merchants—reasons beyond the charm of the property, or the opportunity to find merchandise unavailable online or at the big box. Perhaps most importantly, the money you spend—and much of the tax you pay—stays local. How much exactly? According to research printed in USA Today $68 of every $100 spent. Your dollars support local school improvements, local police & fire, infrastructure and more. Further you’ll raise your own property values. When you decide to hit the “buy now” button online, that money evaporates into cyber space. One of the first things perspective home-buyers will ask is how are the schools in this zip code and where can I shop? We all must remember that without these merchants we would have no community. These merchants are our neighbors, they support little league, soccer clubs, they volunteer, and serve at the local churches and synagogues.
Still need convincing? Here are a few more reasons to buy local.
Spending Locally. Keeping your dollars local will keep the money circulating back through your community. Buying local keeps you in control. If you can’t make a complete change to shop locally, try to make small steps to begin to shift slightly in your thinking and make baby steps toward staying local and getting to know your shop owner, restaurant owners, etc.
Price Matching. If you find something for less online all the Mom & Pop’s I work with want a chance to price match. Simply bring in the advertisement and give them a chance to price match. Often times shipping fees, return fees and frustration add up and can ultimately cost you more when shopping online.
Don’t worry…get happy. Shopping at local stores, where the person serving you is frequently the owner, is a terrific antidote to our impersonal, screen-driven work lives. There are several stores in my town that I create excuses to visit, just because I like being there. I love when I can go sit at a bar/restaurant and know I am safe as I know everyone, and I don’t have to worry. I inevitably spend a few bucks once I’m done dining and drinking, as I generally go next door to shop.
Build a Better World. One of the fundamental tenets of modern capitalism is that free markets build better communities. For that to happen, small local enterprises must remain vital. Embrace the idea that business can be a force for good and shop accordingly.
Take away the power of government saving your local economy—save it yourself by voting with your feet. When you buy local, you’re shaping a brighter future for your community, your family and yourself. It is important to stop and think before you click. Instead, go shopping, talk to your merchants & befriend them. Before you know it, you will have a Friends & Family discount every time you shop. Plus, you will be greeted with a smile and human touch which is an add on service. Start small and gradually you will find your changing your shopping habits and getting to know your neighbors.
So remember gurus, shop small & keep it local.
Source: buy-local-William-powers, Dan R. Austin, https://www.wbur.org/cognoscenti