Not so long ago, the future of successful independent stores was grim. Their inability to compete with the purchasing power of national chains and big box stores seemed to indicate the inevitable demise of local independent retailers. Fortunately, this has not been the case. So, in a time when most people believe bigger is better, why then are consumers buying from locally-owned independent stores rather than big boxes and national chains? There are many explanations for this shift away from national chain stores to independent retailers. Here are just a few to consider, based on the “Top 10 Reasons to Support Locally Owned Businesses” from the Institute for Local Self- Reliance.
1. Buying from locally-owned stores keeps money in the community and builds a strong local economy.
According to a report by the American Independent Business Alliance, "Multiple studies show locally-owned independent restaurants return twice as much per dollar of revenue to our local economy than chain restaurants. And independent retailers return more than three times as much money per dollar of sales than chain competitors." This money contributes to the creation of local jobs and acts to expand the tax base of the community. This money also stays in the community because locally-owned businesses buy from other local businesses and service providers.
2. The uniqueness of the community is enhanced when people buy from locally-owned stores.
When asked to name their favorite restaurant or store, most people will reply with the name of a unique local business. Although consumers like the idea of a distinctive local marketplace, they often forget that their patronage provides the support those independent businesses need in order to survive. Simply put, these local businesses are an important part of what makes the community a great place to live by greatly contributing to its distinctive character.
3. Local businesses foster job creation.
Studies have revealed that more jobs are created by local businesses than big box stores. In fact, small local businesses are the largest employers nationally. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “Small businesses account for 75% of all new jobs in this country.”
4. Buying locally nurtures the community.
Local business owners have a natural interest in and are committed to the long-term health of their communities. This leads to their willingness to give back to local charities and organizations. In short, community-based businesses are vital to the support of charitable causes.
5. Tax dollars are conserved when buying from an independent locally-owned store.
Less public infrastructure is required by small neighborhood businesses. These businesses make more efficient use of city services in comparison to the big box stores, which are significantly more costly in terms of roadwork, police services, etc.
6. Locally-owned independent stores offer more product choices.
In the long term, lower prices, competition, and innovation are provided in a marketplace of small businesses. For local businesses, choice of products is based on the needs and desires of the local customers rather than a national sales plan. This guarantees a more diverse selection of products and services.
7. Buying form local independent retailers helps the environment.
Generally speaking, most local business owners choose to establish their businesses in the downtown area and in walkable neighborhood business districts instead of suburban strip malls that are accessible only by car or bus. With a diverse selection of businesses within walking or biking distance, the amount of driving done by local residents to shop for goods and services is significantly reduced. As a result, traffic and air pollution is decreased and land is conserved.
8. Buying from local independent stores preserves entrepreneurship.
The economic prosperity of America is fueled by entrepreneurship. It also provides a way for families to move from low-paying jobs to the middle class. Moreover, a successful locally-owned business shows the young people of the community that it is possible to stay in their town and operate their own local businesses.
9. Purchasing from a local independent store can insure that the local community stands out from the crowd.
Communities that preserve their distinctive character and one-of-a -kind businesses stand a better chance of attracting entrepreneurs and new investment. Individuality is highly prized by local communities and homegrown enterprises are considered a source of pride as well as an attraction to visitors.
10. When buying from a local business, consumers can benefit from local owner’s expertise.
Local business owners and their employees often possess a level of expertise and a passion for the product they sell that is not found at national chains. They also tend to have a greater interest in getting to know their customers who are also their neighbors. Pride in their trade is easily seen in the employers and employees of locally-owned businesses.
Just Buy Local
For all these reasons and more, buying from a local independent store rather than a big box makes good economic sense and is vital to the preservation and uniqueness of local communities. It should never be forgotten that the survival of local independent stores depends on the patronage of the members of the community. Without your support, the locally-owned businesses and the very character and values they bring to your community are at risk.
James Poen is the owner of Richardson Saw in Richardson, TX and a huge supporter of the Independent We Stand movement. In this video, James talks about the importance of independent businesses embracing their community. Check it out and visit Richardson Saw on Facebook and Twitter.