I am a huge advocate of shopping locally. I believe that we are becoming less and less of a small business friendly nation. The United States was built on Small Business, but due to convenience and the must have it now mentality, it is hard for small business to compete. Because many small businesses have been driven out of business by the arrival of larger corporations it offers many of us no choice. My household by no means spends all of it’s money locally, but there are many business types in which I believe we must spend locally in order to keep our community thriving.
I live in a community that was arguably the most effected area in the United States by the Sub-Prime Mortgage Crisis. Business was already difficult in the Modesto area, now with many people either losing everything or deciding to let everything go, we are left with a handful of businesses that made the right decisions during this economic downturn while the rest perished.
When it comes to options, we are limited to big box stores such as Target, Walmart, Bestbuy, etc.
I have no allegiance when purchasing commoditized products such as laundry detergent, deodorant, tooth paste, diapers, and everything else that we are overwhelmed with when it comes to options. We have so many options for these products that all promise and perform essentially the same. If I need these items right away, I will buy locally. However, if I have time to wait a few days I will gladly order them from Amazon.Com taking advantage of their free shipping. It is quite often that when I order from Amazon.Com I also do not incur any sales tax charges due to the items shipping from across state line.
Some will argue that I am hurting my own community by not paying local sales tax for these items. I would recant by saying that my community has hurt themselves by not stepping up to protect local business. I would rather purchase these items at a locally owned store for at or around the same price, pay sales tax and go on my mary way, but since we do not have that option, I order online. These are commoditized items, meaning that I can get them anywhere and they are not specific to any store. I could get these items from Target or Walmart but the money leaves our area regardless. I also believe more in Amazon as a company than I do Target or Walmart. I would not lose any sleep over those companies leaving our community altogether. The less business I can do with them, the better.
These large corporate companies do provide many jobs to our communities but beyond that they are showing our community that it does not pay to be ambitious. They will stop you. If there were no large big box stores around, people would see a need and open a business. That is the way it has been since the start of time. Because the big box stores exist, small business can not.
The fine details of my statements here can be argued up and down depending on circumstances. I have stated my reasons and I believe I have a good reason for doing things the way I do, please read on…
When it comes to service based products I always choose local service as opposed to looking outside of my area. 90% of the time there is a local service provider that can fulfill my needs. Here are some examples of locally owned service providers I do business with rather than using a corporately owned alternative.
- Dry Cleaners
- Computer Service and Repair
- Hair Salon
- Pest Control Service
- Yard Maintenance
- Gym Membership
Even when it comes to service providers there is a difference between doing business with a locally owned and operated company as opposed to a nationally based service. I am not saying that nationally owned service providers can not provide a good service, there are some highly respected companies out there providing great service and a great price. However, I myself am a service provider providing wedding photography and website design services to my community. I understand the importance in supporting local business. I have always and will continue to support businesses that provide excellent service at a local level. This is where things are different from commoditized products. Services can become commoditized as well. There are some services which I seek out online. These are services such as website hosting, bookkeeping, email marketing, etc. All of those items are commoditized services, some of which are actually available locally but someone else outside of our area is doing a much better job at it.
When it comes to choosing a service in which I want a personal touch and connection, I opt for local. I would not trust a national service to send out some random person to work on my car or repair my computer. I want to know the guy who is doing my yard and spraying my house with chemicals. Even though my insurance is through a nationally branded carrier, I get it through a local representative who is well established and respected in our community.
Shopping for Groceries
I only shop at grocery stores based from our community. If you are from my area you are probably familiar with Savemart and Raley’s (also known as Knob Hill). When I am feeling moderately smug I will even go much more local and shop at O’Brien’s Supermarket (you can tell how small they are by looking at their website). I say smug because it’s the cool place to shop for groceries and you often pay for it. However I do love O’Brien’s and would shop their consistently if the prices were not so much higher. All three of the mentioned markets provide products from local farmers. I am sure there are some mild exceptions but I know that my fruites and vegetables are coming from somewhere with in a few 100 miles. It is important to me to support local because we are a farming community. Modesto is surrounded by farms. I can promise you that you have consumed a farmed product from this area one way or another. Farming is for the most part what is holding the Central Valley up. I know that many of the products that I purchase from these stores are coming from other locations outside of our community but I do know that the money earned from those sales is staying local.
Why do I try to keep most of my money local by spending with local providers?
Small, locally-owned businesses are more likely to keep the money they earn in the community. They don’t send off most of their profits to the corporate office on the other side of the nation. Local businesses are more likely to use local suppliers.
Where do you draw the line?
You can not possibly know everything about where your products of services are coming from. I know that many items I consume are shipped to be sold locally. The main goal for me is to make sure that the profits from the sales of those items go to a locally owned and operated business. I can not possibly know everything about each transaction, but I try to at least be mindful of it.
Let me make one thing clear: I don’t condemn anyone who does not or cannot buy local. I am a complete supporter of small businesses, and I hope that you will be too, but I’m not going to say you’re wrong if you have good reasons for shopping elsewhere or if you feel I am wrong for shopping the way I do.
All things being equal, I suspect most people would choose to buy local. But each of us has a different price at which local is no longer an option. For some, this point is immediate: they’ll always buy the cheapest option, regardless of other factors. Others — and I know a few like this — will buy local no matter the cost.
The decision is ultimately yours to make. You decide how to spend the money that you make. Do not think that I am trying to control that at all or condem you in any way. I am just stating my thoughts and ideas on the matter.