You’d have to be living under a rock at the bottom of the ocean to not be inundated with “Buy Local” campaigns and propaganda. It’s on nearly every street corner, website, community board and business card. And really, who doesn’t want to support the local company in their heart of hearts? When I’m trying to earn new business for Richter’s, I’ve never been blown off because I represented a local company. It’s much more likely that I will get a response like this: “I love that you’re local, but…” insert reason here. The good news is, many of you ACTUALLY buy from local businesses, and you’re awesome!! The biggest reason we have survived for over 30 years is because of amazing customers who believe in us and support us. We thank you!
There is a lot of data floating around on the internet showing you exactly where your money goes when you purchase something from a big box store vs. a local business. If you are interested in that sort of thing, here or here are a few good places to look. I’m not going to be focusing on quantitative data, however. Rather, I’m going to focus on a few of the other reasons why buying local is important.
The first reason is relationships. Good business is all about relationships. We all want to be the person who walks into a restaurant where everybody not only knows their name, but also their “usual.” When you work with local businesses you are much more likely to work with the same people, forming a relationship with them. I absolutely love it when I hear one of our outstanding customer service reps pick up the phone and greet the person by name simply because they recognize the phone number of the person calling. We as human beings are drawn to connections like these, and the feelings of togetherness and community alone make doing business locally worthwhile.
Another reason to buy local is because it shows you are invested in your community. Recently, I was speaking with a friend of mine regarding a local coffee shop that had gone out of business. He recalled that others would come up to him and say how much they missed having it around, to which he asked them, “Oh yeah? How often did you go there?” Their answer? “Once a month…maybe.” If we want our local establishments, and the people who work there, to thrive, we have to give them our support. Buying local takes commitment and effort; we are accountable to our communities. When you commit to buying locally you’re showing that you care about your community and the people who inhabit it.
This next point may stretch you a bit, but hear me out. I’d challenge you to think about the ethics of money. This is NOT a fun thing to think about, but I believe it is very important. While we may not be publically endorsing a specific cause, or rejecting another, the big companies where we purchase our goods certainly are. You might not explicitly be making a statement when you make a purchase, but those funds are used for a lot more than paying cost of goods, salaries, and benefits.
In the same vein, think about how many companies are engaging in the political arena. This is especially apparent in the current stage of our election cycle. Think of all of the corporations that lobby to congress and fund presidential candidates. You won’t see local businesses throwing around millions of dollars to sway congressmen and congresswomen to regulate/deregulate or keep tax loopholes open. When your money goes to a small business it’s far more likely that what you spend is going to support the employees and operational needs of the organization.
Please understand, I’m not trying to come across as holier than thou. I buy from Best Buy, Wegmans and Chipotle. But I also love going to Jesse’s BBQ, Northbound, Merry Mead Farm, the Perk, Frederick’s Flowers, and MANY other local establishments. The level of attention and care I receive from these establishments makes a meaningful difference to me as a consumer. It means not waiting on hold for an hour, getting service with a smile, and employees who remember me. That’s what keeps me coming back. In today’s world it’s darn near impossible to avoid big box stores, but each purchase we make is an opportunity to make a difference. Yes, it matters!!
If you’re looking for a deeper dive into buying local, please reference this article from Groom + Style. They did a nice job dissecting the many ways buying local affects our communities economically, environmentally, and socially.