News

Shopping Local: 48% Better

By CHRISTINA CLARKChristina Clark JPEG
Columnist

Every time I wander into the mall I’m both excited and disappointed.

I am always less excited by Hot Topic and Forever 21 than I want to be, and increasingly excited about J.Crew (which means I’m getting older. Don’t let it happen, folks, it’ll creep up on you!).

But I can never find the edgy, interesting, unique items I really want at the mall. It’s all so mass produced. It’s great for work and for special occasions, but in my downtime I like to look like I’m the one in charge of my life and my look (which some days, looks better than others, honestly).

But when I really want to find fun clothes, I love to explore local boutiques. Jewelry, clothing, etc., is all more fun when there are less of the same item in the same store. But aside from just wanting unique items, is there more to it than that? Of course there is!

Supporting local business is important to the uniqueness and the livelihood of a community. It drives the passion of the people who actually live and stay in the community. It encourages money from the community to circulate through the community, meaning that the town gets more than it would than if the money were spent at a large corporate box store that doesn’t invest in the community.

The idea behind that is if a business is locally owned and operated, then the owner is more likely to be actively involved with the community and give back.

On the American Independent Business Alliance’s website (amiba.net), I found a pair of pie graphs with results from several Civic Economics 2012 studies (civiceconomics.com) that show the disparity between what a chain retailer and what an independent retailer will reinvest in their community.

A chain retailer is likely to recirculate 13.6% of their revenue into the community they are based in, versus an independent which is likely to recirculate about 48% of their revenue (through profit and labor, procurement for internal use, procurement for resale and charitable giving).

Those dollars help enrich a community.

Aside from the numbers game, I find that local owners and businesses are more attuned to their customer base. They don’t have to do massive surveys, they just have a better handle on their client base because of personal relationships. It is the same model that it seems Starbucks attempts to imitate (and let’s face it, they’ve done a pretty good job).

Personal attention, attention to detail and personalizing an order to the customer’s liking are all characteristics I’ve found in local restaurants, shops, and cafes.

Having worked for both large corporations and small locally owned shops, I’ve also had better experiences at small shops. There is a sense of community in the business, with a better relationship to and communication with the superiors. If things begin to go south, there’s usually a clear warning sign that it is time to bail.

So, instead of keeping the niche world you’ve found at a local coffee shop or restaurant all to yourself, tell your friends! Let everyone in on your little secret, so that your favorite book store, health food store, bike shop, bar, café, boutique… stays around and gives back!

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