The Real Cost of Buying Local

The Real Cost of Buying Local

By: Alexandra Gladu

One of the primary arguments against buying local is the idea that local goods are more expensive than those offered by national chains.While big-box retailers often pride themselves on offering the lowest prices in town, a true comparison of the cost and value of local goods versus chain products could surprise you.

The ultimate key to low prices, especially over the long term, is competition.A competitive marketplace filled with lots of thriving businesses is bound to have lower prices than a barren marketplace dominated by just a select few huge corporations because competition for consumers motivates businesses to offer lower prices.This concept of commercial competition has influenced American policy for decades, and the preservation of competitive marketplaces has maintained relatively low and stable prices throughout the country.

Local businesses contribute to marketplace competition by bringing diversity to the business.While they may not do the same scale of business as the national chains, these locally owned businesses are a source of goods just the same.Therefore, supporting small businesses whenever possible contributes to the marketplace competition that drives prices down and maintains them over time.

In cases where local goods are in fact more expensive than chain products, you can be sure that you’ll get what you pay for.Local retailers often offer products that business owners themselves have hand-selected and tested for quality, not just whichever Chinese-made product they can get most cheaply.Furthermore, local retailers typically offer to service their products, and they usually have more understanding return policies because they make decisions in-house, rather than at some distant corporate headquarters. Thus, the quality and customer service provided by local businesses can more than make up for that extra dollar or two at the register.

Finally, local goods have a much lower environmental cost than those offered at national chains.Local retailers are more likely to source their products from local distributors or manufacturers, whereas chain stores often get their products from all over the country – and overseas. Similarly, local farmers’ markets and food co-ops offer produce straight from the farm in town, whereas chain grocery stores ship food from other cities, states and countries to stock your store’s shelves.The environmental cost may not directly come from your pocket, but the extra expense of carbon dioxide and fossil fuels that comes with shopping at chain stores is sure to cost us all more in the long run.

Buying local does not mean paying more.In most cases, local goods are priced competitively with chain goods, but they offer more benefits like quality and service. Additionally, buying local offers long-term benefits like environmental sustainability and long-lasting marketplace competition. So next time you see an ad for the lowest price in town, think about whether it’s for a chain good or a local good.

Alex is a rising junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she is double-majoring in Public Relations and Spanish.  Since becoming an intern with Independent We Stand, she has fully adopted the ‘buy local’ lifestyle.  Her favorite indie business is Sugarland, a bakery in Chapel Hill, N.C, where she has been known to go a little cupcake crazy. She hopes to attend law school and pursue a career in nonprofit or political communication.

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