By Zachary S. Sielicky
When you shop local, you do far more than get the items that you want quickly and conveniently. Buying local actually stimulates the economy in our community, helps benefit local schools and charities — and it even helps the environment.
Take a look at some of the many reasons why it’s important to shop and buy locally.
Buying Local Keeps Money in Our Community
When you buy locally, the small business you are making your purchase from certainly benefits, but the benefits keep growing. A small business that does well is likely to hire more people, who then spend more money in the community.
Buying locally also pours money into the local institutions who need it. Taxes are paid locally, boosting the community’s libraries, schools, and infrastructure. Local businesses are also more likely to donate to charities in the local community, helping make improvements that all can enjoy.
In fact, when independent think tank The New Economics Foundation compared similar purchases made at chain stores vs. those made with local businesses, the experts determined that buying locally puts double the money into the community than occurs when you make a purchase at a chain store.
Buying Local Is Better for the Environment
Whether you buy online or from a major chain store, it typically requires some major effort to get your item to you. Trucks have to haul products across the country, burning up fossil fuel and contributing to pollution.
In addition, products that have to be packaged for shipping typically end up requiring extra packaging to survive the journey intact. Compare buying, say, a pre-packaged set of nails at a big box store — with your purchase sealed in one of those packages that practically require power tools to open — to picking out just the nails you need at your local hardware store, with the friendly local owner popping them into a simple paper bag (or even into the bag you brought yourself). All that extra packaging typically ends up in landfills or the ocean, adding to environmental damage.
Buying Local Results in More Diverse Choices for Customers
When you go to one big box store after another, you will see the same product choices, over and over. The only real difference is in price — and often that difference is a matter of pennies.
Buying locally is a whole different experience. Each small business in our community is unique, offering a true connection with customers and a real understanding of their visitors’ needs. Think about the diversity of stepping into a local boutique to do some clothes shopping versus perusing the offerings at chain stores, which all seem to look the same. Local artisans and craftspeople can show off their wares and build a following when you shop locally.
One Salem boutique owner, Courtney Chandler who owns and operates Urban 53 stressed the importance of shopping local, especially in a small town like Salem:
“Buying local is the essence of any community. It is more important than ever to take the time to visit your local shops and keep your money circulating within your community. Salem has had a difficult time building a strong dining, shopping and event scene, but I feel like we have stepped up our game in the past couple of years. It is crucial that we all help build each other’s businesses if we want this town to be one worth enjoying. It is also more important than ever to vote people into leadership with a strong vision of community growth as well as the ability to make that happen.”
In addition, local businesses are typically far more flexible, adjusting to meet the immediate needs of customers much more quickly than giant national chains can do. They can also do a better job of stocking the products our community members want, since they are part of the community.
Buy Local to Help Keep Our Community Unique
Related to the previous reason to buy locally is the idea that those unique products lead to a one-of-a-kind shopping experience. No one goes to a big box store to browse or to enjoy recreational shopping. But when your local shopping district is filled with local retailers, you create a sense of self-image that help defines our community. Our unique businesses are something to be proud of, and when we all support them, they create a reason for other shoppers to come visit our community.
You also find that it is those small, locally owned businesses that are sponsoring little league teams, fundraisers for school athletic teams, and other extracurricular activities. By spending your dollars locally, you are helping put a jersey on the back of a kid or helping a high school debate team pay their way to a tournament in another state.
By supporting local businesses, we can also help entrepreneurship thrive, which adds to local prosperity and innovation. Every local retailer is one of our neighbors who has taken a risk to try to make our region a better, stronger place, boosting the economy and helping lift friends and neighbors into the middle class.
When we all look for ways to buy local, we tell all our neighbors that we believe our community is worth investing in. We put our money into things we care about, including our local schools, and we enjoy a better purchasing experience overall personally. Shopping and buying locally is a win-win for you, for small businesses, and for our community as a whole.
The author Zachary Sielicky is the Membership Manager for the Salem Chamber of Commerce. Zachary advises businesses in the Mid-Willamette Valley on how to connect with the community and fellow businesses. The Salem Chamber is a Convener of leaders, a Catalyst for positive change, and a Champion for a thriving community. Are you a business leader? Find out what kind HERE.