I’m a big believer in shopping locally.
I like walking into a store and knowing the owners — and having them call me by name as if I’m a friend, not the next customer standing in line. I like asking the people behind the counters and at the cash registers about their families, and them asking about mine, and when it’s called for, dispensing a few hugs before getting down to business.
I like being in stores that I can navigate, where I’m not overwhelmed by mass production and monstrous displays. I like having someone know me well enough to suggest I try something because I might like it, or because someone on my Christmas list will fall in love with it — because we have a history; a relationship.
There. I’ve said it. When it gets right down to it, I like doing business with people I know; people I like; people who have a stake in this spot where we all live; you know, neighbors.
Call me old-fashioned, but this is how my grandparents and parents did business, long before people ordered things online or shopped at the big box stores that muscled their way into every community and business section. My folks traded; they bought; they frequented the businesses of people who lived on the same block or went to the same church or were in the same class at school. There was a sense of loyalty, of supporting one another, because that’s how people did business.
An old-fashioned notion, maybe, but the belief in shopping locally is gaining new ground with a new generation — and I couldn’t support it more.
There’s a compelling reason why. When you buy local, $68 of every $100 spent stays in town. That translates into money spent at other places of business in town. It supports school millages and local charities, goes for property taxes and local entertainment. It pays the salaries of our neighbors, their mortgages, their grocery bills, their kids’ braces, school clothes and Christmas presents.
When you buy from big retailers, the number that stays local drops to $43 for every $100 spent. And get this, when you shop online, the number plummets to zero. Virtually no money is returned to the local economy — although there is legislation afoot in a handful of states to charge sales tax for on-line purchases, something to even the playing field.
I didn’t make up these numbers. They come from Civics Economics, a private research firm with offices in Austin, Texas and Chicago, that’s been studying such things for a long time. I’ve seen other studies that show an even wider gap between shopping locally and buying from the big retailers, but let’s just say, keeping money in town helps the economy — lots.
Now, I admit, there are times I go into big businesses, times I buy things from chain stores, but the truth is, I like smaller stores. I like knowing that I’m investing in my neighbors’ futures. I like independent businesses, the traditional mom-and-pop businesses owned by individuals.
OK, one more confession. I’m really not much of a shopper. I might be in the minority on this one, but I don’t find it relaxing to spend a day browsing, looking, wiling away the hours in the stores and coming home with nothing. When I go shopping, especially this time of year, I go with the intention of buying something – gifts, presents, indulgences for the people on my Christmas list.
Do you know what a comfort it is for someone like me to walk into a store and get help from someone who knows me? Talk about a luxury. As good as the customer service might be at the big stores — and it is outstanding at some places — there’s nothing that compares to someone who is as invested in me as I am in him or her.
Because that’s what it is really.
I want to support the community of people who have been so good to me, that have given me so much. I want to be there for my friends and neighbors in the same way they’ve been there for me. I usually think of that on a personal level – being there when there’s a crisis, being there to celebrate joys, just being there – but sometimes it’s also a matter of doing business with someone I know.
Shopping locally – I like it.