Stacy Mitchell, from the Institute for Self-Reliance, gave the audience at this fall’s Heartland Fall Forum a pep-talk about the popularity of buy local campaigns. Interest in local businesses and what they can offer to their communities is on the rise. In many areas local businesses are opening at a higher rate than non-local businesses. More and more it is becoming apparent that Americans want to live in cities and towns with a strong indie presence. People want to get back to basics, create a more personal environment and the makeup of their communities matter to them. These tighter knit communities include grocers, hardware stores, restaurants, pet stores, and yes, bookstores too. Stacy sees this as a backlash to the decades of impersonal big box stores that have pushed out the more traditional mom and pop operations.
A city or town with small, independent stores has more sense of community. The residents are more responsible for each other and social networks are stronger. Residents are more interested in the workings of this type of community and the result is a stronger town all around.
We all know that more money from these small, local stores stays in the community. For each $100 spent at a chain store, $19 stays local. This number jumps to $28 with money spent at a local business. And it isn’t just the money. Local businesses support local activities, sponsoring youth sports teams, school and community arts programs, local charities, and much more. When was the last time you saw a big box put their support behind your town’s theater group? Local businesses also support other local businesses, forming the backbone of a strong community. More local spending leads to more jobs and better jobs.
Another positive aspect is that customers are more apt to discover new items in smaller indie stores than a big box. Shoppers take more time to explore and find new things when the store is smaller and the pace is slower. Owners of smaller stores have the advantage over the big boxes of being able to learn their customers’ likes and dislikes. They can then tailor their stock to match their audience faster and better than a big box.
What can businesses do?
2) Get politically active! It is a fact that government favors big business, so let your congress reps know you care about indies. Make sure your customers do the same. Get involved with your local government as well, it all starts at home.
What can individuals do?
1) Put your money where your mouth is. It isn’t enough to “say” you support local, you need to buy from these small businesses. Even if the prices are a bit higher, you are investing in your community. The Saturday after Thanksgiving is designated as Small Business Saturday, but together we can make every day Small Business Day!
2) Get politically active, make your voice heard from your local town council to your representatives in Washington. Tell them to give local businesses a fair shake.
Be sure to check out the Institute for Local Self-Reliance for more information on this subject.