I grew up in the small historic town of Chesterton Indiana. I have been fortunate to see great communities all around the world. Every move I have ever made has shown me a vast array of great communities. Some are struggling and some are vibrant and growing. What I find is the communities that are truly growing all have one thing in common. They have a strong community and even with the big box stores, they buy from local businesses that support their community. I now live in Valparaiso Indiana with my wife and family but get to Chesterton often as it’s just a short drive. I know deep down it’s this support of choosing a local small business before a big box store that makes these communities great and I truly feel good about it.
I personally understand the glitz, excitement, and joy you can get from going to big box stores. They are definitely impressive in size, haggle prices that a small business owner can rarely (if ever) touch, and it just looks impressive. I too was once like that and I will say I do shop at the big box stores. I will actually be going there after writing this blog article. What you won’t see me get are items that my local small business owners sell. I want to support them as there are more reasons to keep them in business than you might realize. I am going to cover every reason I have thought of over the past five years of why you want to support small business owners.
- Community – Small business owners are in your neighborhood, your town, and support the community. They may not give $10,000 a whack like the big stores but they actually give something more important – their time! The larger a company gets the less time they give and the more money they give. This is important but it doesn’t help your community grow
- Community (#2) – Local ownership of business means residents with roots in the community are involved in key development decisions that shape our lives and local environment.
- Local economy - Each dollar you spend at independent small businesses returns 3 times more money to the local economy than one spent at a chain (almost 50 times more than buying from an online mega-retailer) — a benefit we all can bank on.
- Culture – In business, your employees and how you run your business defines your culture. When you buy locally you are also building a culture; a local community culture. This gives your town/city a distinct personality that defines it.
- Personality – Building on culture the personality of the town comes out with small businesses. Big box stores you are a number where with small business owners you actually become a “human”. They know you by name, greet you not because they have a paid position to greet you because they actually like you.
- Real experts – When you buy from a local small business you are actually working with someone that knows the product you are purchasing in and out. Need that lawn mower and need to know the best ways to maintain it, use it, etc. you’ll most likely get real-world hands-on experience answering your question rather than a video or someone that may (or may not) have read the manual on it.
- Environment – Local businesses are not spread out and use space a lot more efficiently. This helps on their carbon footprint. Often this is due to they aren’t spending a million dollars just on the building. They are spending it on everything to grow their business, market, and be in the community.
- Taxes – Small business owners believe it or not will spend more money on taxes and help the local communities. Many large stores will negotiate that they get tax breaks which seem great to get the store in your town but take away from infrastructure and schools.
- Larger Variety – This one is hard to grasp. You go to your local grocery store and you might have three choices yet at the box store you have twenty choices. So how is it a larger variety? It’s simple they may only have three choices but often will have products the box stores don’t have as a small business is all about the community they are in. They will get the products that are not as profitable but work for the community. This means they will have products the larger stores have and you get a larger variety.
- More jobs – This was a hard one for me to grasp initially. I have family at the big stores and they employ over a hundred people. So how can a small business with one or two provide more jobs? It’s simple. There are more small businesses than big businesses and you get more jobs.
- Health and Vitality – When things are going well the big stores are all about your community. When the economy changes, they quickly are willing to dump the community and move out. Small business owners are vested in the community and will push and sacrifice for the community they are in.
- Democracy – 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. Managers of big stores may live in the community but their paycheck comes from and they are vested in the big store rather than a local business vested in the local community.
- Competition – The competition between small business owners is actually more of a team effort rather than big vs small. As a small business marketing company, we love seeing our clients and other small businesses working collaboratively together to build the local community.
- Safer communities – Local stores help to sustain vibrant, compact, walkable town squares which in-turn are essential to reducing sprawl, automobile use, habitat loss, and air and water pollution. It’s truly a great experience to walk around town and purchase from three or four small businesses rather than going to one, then another, and then another by traveling.
- Two stores are not the same – Building on the wider variety what you will notice is with local businesses that they may be the same type of store but the variety they bring to you is completely different. Each business has a broader range of product choices. You will find quirky one-off items that are truly unique and enhance family lives. Game stores are a great family builder that go back to the old ways of family face time instead of phone face time.
- Ethical choices – Buying out-of-season produce, like strawberries in December, lowers your eco-credentials. As does eating turkey and carrots that have been flown halfway around the world or wrapped in layers of plastic. When you shop at local butchers, bakers, farm shops and greengrocers, it is likely that a decent percentage of the product has had a short field-to-fork journey. Along with supporting local farmers, it means the food is likely to contain more nutrients and have less packaging.
- Customer Service – Small business owners strive to survive and one of the biggest advantages they have over large retailers is the ability to provide more personable, hands-on, and memorable customer service.
- Euphoria feeling – I know I always feel better when I choose a local coffee shop over Starbucks, a local restaurant over McDonald’s, a local bookstore over Barnes and Noble, or give that local health foods store a try over fast food and further enhance your life.
- Choice – Locally owned businesses pick the items and products they sell based on what they know you like and want to be based on your direct feedback. Local businesses carry a wider array of unique products because they buy for their own individual markets and will showcase the culture, diversity, and goodwill of the community.
- Destination – An area that builds and breeds a strong community is by turning your community into an actual destination. Everything starts with you and the strength and growth of the community grow every time you support a small community-based business.
The best way to get started is looking at your shopping list the next time you go out. When you can buy local then do so. I know not every item will be available but even one item is one item more than you did last time. You may find that the other items you want have equally comparable, or better, local replacements you may not have previously thought of. Other ways that can be beneficial to getting those to support local are:
- Be vocal –Post pictures, tweets, and status updates of either the small business you own, or of yourself shopping at one, and be sure to use the hashtag #ShopSmall. Also, write positive Yelp reviews for the small businesses you love and support.
- Customer loyalty – If the local business has a loyalty program sign up for it. Not only will it help encourage you to go back often with the loyalty rewards the costs will be equal or less than that of the national chains. If a local business doesn’t have one talk to them and let them know how it would be a great value ad.
- Community and Empathy – Continuing on the community aspect remember it is small businesses that build and support the community they are in. These business owners are human, they will falter. Don’t bash them online or talking to friends unless you’ve talked with the business owner (not an employee) and see if they will fix it before you try to bash and destroy their business. They are vested in your community just like you are.
It is with this that you will have a community others are wanting to be part of.