Why Buy Local? Keep Your Money Where Your Heart Is.
Imagine your neighborhood or entire city without any of its small, locally owned businesses.
Coffee shops, corner stores, fruit markets, craft stores, local restaurants, art supply stores, pet stores, web design agencies, childcare centers, general contractors, auto repair shops, bakeries and delis, hairdressers, clothing boutiques, laundromats, gas stations, and much more. Yes, even HVAC contractors. All gone!
What would remain? What would the streets look like? Desolate, depressing, gloomy, abandoned . . . like a scene right out of the zombie apocalypse show, The Walking Dead?
The significance of small business to local communities is emotionally rooted in buying and selling with friend and neighbors. The importance of small firms in rural areas and big cities alike is also understood in the economic benefits of shopping locally.
In some towns and villages, a small business is the only kind that can continue to exist while serving a reduced population. In a bigger city, small businesses normally offer a more assorted inventory or focus in providing unique or personalized customer experiences. Small businesses also present new employment opportunities and serve as the building blocks of the nation’s largest corporations.
Today, there are over 30 million small businesses operating in the U.S alone, but only half of new businesses will survive past five years. Competition from chains, skyrocketing brick and mortar leases and struggles getting website traffic all contribute.
That said, it’s crucial to keep in mind that small businesses are important to the economic and social fabric of our society, though we all play a part in their survival.
Shopping small in many cases offers a better customer experience over big box and chain counterparts – think more personalized service and unique products. But putting your dollars into independent businesses has benefits beyond your own experience.
Small business survival helps ensure the livelihood of communities, the creation of meaningful jobs, and the preservation of traditional production methods.
Beyond the economic benefit, small business owners must stand out from the crowd to better serve their customers. Statistics show consumers are willing to support them if they do. Sixty-three percent of consumers who buy locally do so because they want to support local businesses, according to the SCORE study.
Fact: Local business generates 70 percent more local economic activity per square foot than big box retail.
Let’s dig a bit deeper.
When you buy local, you support yourself and others in your community.
A number of studies have demonstrated that when you buy from an independent locally owned business, rather than a nationally owned business, considerably more of your money is used to make purchases from other local businesses, which helps support the local economy as a whole.
In fact, findings show that if the residents of an average American city were to shift 10 percent of their spending from chains to local businesses, it would bring an added $235 million per year to the community’s economy.
Moreover, local businesses reinvest in their communities. Because they’re owned by people in the community, these businesses are less likely to leave and are more invested in the future prosperity of the community. Throughout the U.S., only about one-third of the revenue from national chains is reinvested into the community, whereas there is an approximate 65 percent return from local businesses.
One study in Austin, TX, found that $100 spent at a local bookstore produced $45 worth of local economic activity and $100 at the chain store Borders brought back only $15.
Imagine the boost that could occur if small business owners across all categories made their commercial purchases – from paper supplies to IT services – locally.
Moreover, since local businesses are more likely to purchase from other local businesses, the local tax base grows and so do local businesses. Local businesses charge sales tax based on their location and can be the backbone of special taxation districts focused on unique projects, such as sidewalk projects to develop historic shopping districts and attract additional customers.
A stronger tax base also means improved schools, better roads and greater support for local police and fire
One more thing. Studies also show that small businesses invest more in the community and contribute by promoting a culture of entrepreneurship.
Fact: Did you know that 70 percent of small businesses are owned and operated by a single person?
Creating meaningful jobs
Small businesses are big employers. The mom and pop shops of your hometown may not have as much name recognition as a major corporation like Apple or GE, but small businesses create more new jobs than any other type of venture, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Small businesses also tend to invite talent who invent new products or implement new solutions for existing ideas.
With jobs being created where you live, your friends, neighbors and family can find jobs closer to home. That has a huge impact on family, community and the environment because it keeps money in the community and cuts back on commutes.
Fact: Small businesses create about two out of every three new jobs in the United States each year.
Better customer experience
Many big box retailers can’t keep up with the number of customer service calls they receive, so they are outsourcing their customer service teams or turning to an automated system. This leaves consumers frustrated due to not receiving the level of service they were expecting.
Even where chain businesses do have good customer service, you can’t beat the personal touch of a local owner who knows everyone in the neighborhood.
With local businesses, you get to know the person or team behind the product or service and connect with the business owner. If there is ever an issue that warrants attention, you can trust the problem will be taken seriously and handled swiftly because of the reputation the local company wants to maintain in the community.
When things go wrong, it’s important to know that you have someone to talk to face to face. Again, large commercial firms will often provide you with a phone number for their customer service, which is often not in the U.S., and make you wait for what seems like an eternity until you get to speak to someone.
Just as importantly, there’s a symbiotic relationship between residents and small business owners. They really need one another. Small business owners have an active and personal interest in the well-being of the community. They live there. Their kids go to school there. They care about what happens.
Small businesses unite the community
Wherever you’re from, chances are there was a small business that played an important role in your life. Maybe it was the diner you and your family went to on Sunday mornings for breakfast. Or the landscaping company that gave you your first summer job. Or the HVAC contractor who fixed air conditioner on the hottest day of the year. It might not have occurred to you at the time, but these businesses helped make your community what it was.
Local eateries, bars, bookstores, delis, and gift shops all combine to give a place its unique character.
Many municipalities and tourism boards have prioritized preserving the unique character a vibrant small business community creates, converting that character into an advantage.
Fact: Former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen claimed it was our small businesses that powered our recovery after the Great Recession.
Small businesses also reflect and amplify the culture of the community.
Again, locally owned restaurants are a perfect example. They don’t have to buy food from a preset menu and prepare it in a standardized way. They’re free to feature regional dishes and source foods locally. Their independence lets them quickly respond to the changing needs of their neighborhoods. This all contributes to a strong sense of place.
Small business owners are passionate about their business
Small business owners open their businesses for a multitude of reasons. Yet, the most prominent reason for launching a business is their passion for what they do. A small business is often the fulfillment of a life-long dream. Whether they own a hardware store or created an innovative product, these professionals are truly invested in and motivated by what they do.
Would you rather spend your hard-earned dollars helping a small business prosper or give your money to a massive corporation such as Wal-Mart? I don’t know about you, but I’d feel much better knowing my money is helping an entrepreneur accomplish his or her dreams and expand the well-being of our community.
Truth is, starting any business is risky. Patronizing a local business is an acknowledgement of that risk and the challenges inherent in starting your own endeavor. Furthermore, you’re showing the small business owner that you’re choosing them over a larger competitor with more resources. It’s an act of respect!
Fact: It takes just 6 days to start a business in the US, compared to 38 days in China.
Speaking of innovation, independent businesses are where innovation happens. It’s how things move forward and progress. Without the creativity and innovative nature of local businesses and entrepreneurs, industries wouldn’t advance at the rate that they are.
Take for instance the coffee shop. Currently at the peak of popularity, chain coffee shops are actually following in the footsteps of independent local coffee shops. These chains are doing what they can to blend more into the community and seem more authentic. This is all thanks to the innovation of local businesses.
Here’s another way to look at it. Did you know that small businesses produce more patents than large corporations? That could be because employees are given more freedom to work independently and make decisions. This may be why small businesses tend to attract workers who are able and willing to think creatively when it comes to solving problems and using technology. When a business lacks the resources of a large corporation, employees have to get creative – and inventions from necessity are born.
A cleaner environment
Pedestrian-friendly town centers have their own unique vibe – and environmental benefits. Having stores in your immediate neighborhood means you can leave your car parked and do your errands on foot or on a bicycle. Fewer cars means less vehicle use, less traffic congestion, less noise and, ultimately, less pollution.
Oh, one more thing . . . Online isn’t always best
For many of us, we believe that the absolute best deals can only be found online. Through TV, radio and online ads, we are constantly shown how great deals that seem too good to be true and often this is sadly the case. However, you might be surprised to see just how competitive the prices are in hour local shops and businesses. Find out what your local retailers can offer you first before checking online.
Fact: Small businesses pay 44% of U.S. payroll
What can I do to promote small businesses?
If you’ve had a good experienced at a small business, talk about it. Word-of-mouth marketing accounts for 13 percent of all consumer sales. The more people you can tell about a small business, the more you are helping that business.
For more ideas on how to help promote and support locally owned businesses please go to:
We at Phillips Heating & Air Conditioning join other small businesses in supporting the local business community in the Pittsburgh area. We invite our customers to “think small” the next time they are in need of a specific product or service.