Shopping local is more than a recent trend; it’s a lifestyle decision. It’s no surprise that consumers are always looking to save, but deciding on where to shop is about a lot more than price. Big boxes and national chains have the luxury to purchase in bulk at quantity discounts, which gives them the ability to sell units at lower prices. This gives the big boxes an edge in a price war versus smaller businesses in which it may not be practical to purchase as many units. Retailers know that price is king of this economy. Where does that leave locally owned, small businesses that need to watch their margins? What keeps them in business? The intension of this article is not to prove that big boxes are “bad” or don’t care about their community, but lending a voice to the small business around the corner.
When deciding where to purchase a product, a question to consider is, “Where does the money go after the purchase?” With a locally owned business, money is recycled into the community in the form of local supplies, taxes, employee wages, roadwork, and public services. Many folks may not realize this, but the new neighborhood park or the potholes that were finally patched up were funded in part by local businesses. “Grassroots” movements and hipsters aside, there truly is a growing sense of pride to support local businesses as well. Russo Power Equipment’s turf specialist, John Davis, always tries to keep money spent in the local economy. “We live in Cary, Illinois and shop Cary, Illinois! If our town does not have it we go one town over to Crystal Lake. Our towns share taxes on the roads and parks,” he said.
But despite this “shop local” trend, from an operational standpoint, how are small businesses able to stay afloat in such a competitive market? One of the main differences between say a family-owned and operated business and a big box is what transpires at the point of purchase. Most local businesses have more humanizing elements than a national chain. Russo Power Equipment, for example, prides itself on its customer service and dedication. The sales staff recognizes faces and remembers customers’ names. Nowadays, that’s usually only seen on reruns of The Andy Griffith Show. This is part company culture, but also the fact that the average Russo employee works an average of 1.4 years longer than the 2012 national average of employment tenure according to the US Department of Labor. Not too shabby for the retail-dealership hybrid. Then again, who would want to leave a place described by one customer as “the grown man’s Disney World”? Plus, any given day the company’s president and owners can even be seen on the showroom and they are more than happy to reminisce with customers. This sense of transparency in management is rare to find in the corporate realm.
However, the biggest benefit for Russo customers is that they get the best of both worlds. “The advantage of our business is that we buy in bulk so you can still get that low, big box price while receiving the customer service of a mom and pop shop,” said marketing supervisor Chris Tyre. “Money spent at Russo is reinvested into the community. Whether it’s donating to a local organization such as The Little Angels, a development home for children with severe disabilities, or sponsoring a community event. Even if it’s not money, we will lend a hand to the church down the street and help them with their landscape needs. Communities grow when the different sectors are working together.”
Russo Power Equipment also offers their customers educational seminars throughout the year on topics ranging from snow removal, chainsaw safety, and risk transfers for contractors. This gives the businesses in the community a chance to network and share ideas, along with ensuring that their operations are done safely and efficiently.
Then there’s the “green” component. A term fully embraced by the organization. The 150-person company strives to leave the smallest footprint on the environment by being as resourceful as possible. Over the past two years, in addition to converting its stores’ lighting to energy efficient bulbs, they have recycled over 225,000 lbs of cardboard. Similar to the carryout orders from the Great Escape, the family-owned restaurant across the street from Russo’s Schiller Park location, they constantly package shipments by reusing discarded cardboard boxes. “Shipping and receiving are major aspects of our business. Not trying to reuse materials like cardboard boxes would just be irresponsible of us, especially given that we specialize in the ‘green’ business, outdoor landscaping equipment,” stated Tyre. In 2012 alone, Russo recycled over 18,000 lbs of metal, 15,000 lbs of paper, 7,000 lbs of plastic, and 7,000 lbs of mixed materials. Many local governments incentivize “green” initiatives for businesses like recycling and using energy efficient products, which create a win-win scenario for both the environment and pocket books.
Learn more about Russo Power Equipment by visiing the store’s website: http://www.russopower.com/