When you consider how many small businesses surround you in your everyday lives, think about the amount of time, commitment, and labor it takes to make these businesses both come to life and stay alive. Yet, many Americans frequent chain stores without considering their local small business options. Whether it's niche home decor, fun children’s books, salon services, clothing and accessories, organic puppy chow, or gourmet human treats - small businesses are too often overlooked for all the wrong reasons. Many customers assume that prices will be higher at a small business versus a big box store, and they tend to dismiss the perks that many small businesses can offer such as customer care, unique products, and community support. However, many of these misconceptions about small businesses are just that... misconceptions. Here's why:
1. There is a misconception that local means more expensive. Product prices are often controlled by the supplier, not the local or big box stores. Stores have little control over a product price but rather are provided a MSRP (Manufactured Suggested Retail Price) or standard mark-up price that determines what price the product is sold at. Over time, if the product doesn't sell or a store has a promotional event taking place, this price may be lowered. But generally, vendors want their products sold at their suggested rate, and retailers are encouraged not to lower the price until is is marked down at the end of the season. Small stores and local shops are in business to provide a great product or service to their customers, while earning some profit to pay their bills - not to rip their customers off.
2. Money remains local not only through taxes, utilities, and employment, but also through philanthropic donations. When you shop local, you support schools, police and fire departments, and local charities. The bulk of the money you spend and most of your taxes stay local helping schools, paving streets, keeping you safe and your family. According to the research firm Civic Economics, for every $100 you spend:
- In a local small business, $68 stays in your community.
- In a large national business, only $43 remains local.
- Online, virtually no money stays in the local community.
When small, local stores donate to charities, it most-likely will be a small local charity. They do this through hosting trunk shows that benefit charities, donating products to silent auctions, or volunteering their time. Continuing to support local businesses benefits the members of your neighborhood and the city you live in.
3. Local stores raise your property values. Lively, vibrant neighborhood shopping streets are considered an advantage when selling a home. Future home buyers looking at specific neighborhoods consider having local shops within walking distance a valuable amenity. Supporting these small businesses helps keeps these shops open and thriving, and increases the value of your home!
4. You’re supporting a dream. Local businesses are owned by people who live in your town, go to your church, coach Little League teams, participate in the local PTA, etc. When you spend money in their stores and cafes, you support your neighbors. The desire to own your own business is the cornerstone of the American dream. Small store ownership helps individuals make a living doing what they love. It also allows them to create and sell merchandise that fills a void in the local neighborhood. If it can be dreamed of, it is probably being sold in a local shop.
5. You'll create jobs. Local businesses create local jobs. Often, these are jobs that pay better than those at chain stores. Many families have found themselves grateful for the jobs and paychecks provided by local shop owners. From parents looking for part-time work close to home, teens hoping to gain hands-on retail experience, to full-time employment opportunities from in-store sales to stocking shelves. All these opportunities help to support the over-all, financial health of our nation’s infrastructure, keeping both our neighbors and neighborhoods secure.
6. You may get some good advice or recommendations tailored specifically to you. If you frequent a local store and get to know the owner or employees, they should be able to recommend products to you because they know you and what you like. The owners are usually the ones behind the counter, unlike a Big Box store, whose CEO may be thousands of miles away. When a regular customer comes into my store, I know the exact pieces that they are going to love, and I can easily put together a few outfits that might work for them. When new items come into the store, I know which customers are going to be excited about those items and I can let them know before their size sells out. In the retail world, owners typically preorder their products months in advanced, so they know what things will be trendy and in style the next season. It is like you have your own “inside man” to keep you on the up-and-up with fashion, home decor, cosmetics, etc.
7. You'll find "Where did you get that?" items. OK, I admit it — most of the time I go shopping, I am shopping for myself, and I love finding unique pieces that you can’t buy at a department store. Shopping in a small local store gives you a chance to find unique things that your friends will envy. Do them a favor and tell them to shop local so they can find their own ‘got to have it’ piece!
8. Independent stores have direct access to manufactures and may be able to special order items just for you. Can’t find your size? A small business owners have the same access to vendors as big box stores do, therefore if you need an item and it's not available in their store, it's likely they can get in touch with the vendor right away and try and order it for you. Of course, there are always exceptions, but most small store owners are eager to go above and beyond for their customers, and this is just one way they can do so.
Supporting small businesses deserves to be part of your daily routine, for both you and your community!
Originally Featured in West Franklin Living Magazine - June 2017 Issue