We liked this column about why people should shop close to home by the co-owner of a small-town newspaper in West Virginia so much that we wanted to share it with readers. But we also want to go a step beyond and encourage our local merchants to give residents reasons to Shop Local.
With our economy in the state it's in and little likelihood of an immediate rebound, merchants would do well to consider what it is that locals buy from them. Is there a way to fill the niche with items they may not have carried before? Maybe they should think about a "locals-only" discount as at least one area merchant tried during the holidays.
Have you talked to those who buy from you and asked them why they do it? Is it convenience, atmosphere, pricing? Let's build on what makes people come to our shops.
Meanwhile, read on.
By David Lillard
There are two hardware stores near my house. One is a big name-brand store that has everything I need at lower prices, open seven days a week. The other has inconvenient hours and prices are a little higher. They don't have nearly the same selection, either. So you'd think I'd shop at the super-convenient big-box store on the new highway. Nope. I've decided it's in my economic self-interest to shop at the local mom-and-pop store.
Here are some reasons to think local, buy local and be local, as listed by the American Independent Business Alliance, a nonprofit group that promotes sustainable communities through strong local economies.
- Buying local supports you and your family. When you buy from an independent, locally owned business, significantly more of your buying dollar stays in the community and is used to make purchases from other local businesses, like local service providers and local advertisers (such as this newspaper!), which helps strengthen the economic base of your hometown.
- When you buy from local businesses, you're supporting local nonprofits. Studies show that small-business owners give an average of 250 percent more dollars in donations to local nonprofits than do large businesses.
- Buying local keeps your community unique. Where we shop, where we eat and have fun - all of it makes our community home. Our one-of-a-kind local businesses give a distinctive character to a place, and add to quality of life; they also bring in more tourist dollars.
- Reduce your environmental impact. Locally owned businesses make more local purchases, which means less wasted fossil fuel for deliveries from afar.
- Local business creates more good jobs. Small local businesses are the largest employer nationally, and the jobs they offer create stronger links to our communities.
- You get better service locally.
- You can buy what you want, not what someone wants you to buy.
So, whenever possible, I buy local. Yeah, I may pay a little more for that new bathroom fixture at the local hardware, and deal with the occasional frustration of inconvenient hours. But I enjoy running into neighbors there. And nothing beats knowing the owner by name and getting her tips on how to get a good seal on my pipe fittings. To me, it's worth it.
© 2009 Blue Ridge Press
,i>David Lillard is co-owner of a small-town newspaper in West Virginia and co-editor of Blue Ridge Press.