Shop small

Love your community? Shop small

Shop small

If you live in a small town, odds are you’ve done it: slipped the barista in your local coffee shop a generous tip because she lives across the street, or scheduled your oil change with the mechanic who goes to your church rather than running to the Mega-Lube.

But no matter where you live, shopping smaller independent businesses is good for everyone. Because it turns out that giving your business to locally owned retailers, service providers, and restaurants isn’t just a nice thing to do for them. It’s a good thing for you, too.

Stimulate local economies

It might seem like your paycheck stretches further if you buy from big-box stores and fast-food chains, and certainly — at least in the near-term — the prices are often lower there. But if you buy your produce at your local farmer’s market, the farmer is likely to turn around and spend that dollar elsewhere in town. If you spend your money at the nationwide retail chain, it will only sweeten the bottom line of a faceless corporation six states away, or even overseas.

Hidden costs

There are other, more subtle costs to wandering the supercenter’s miles of aisles. Chains tend to open where there’s a big enough population to make their economies of scale pay off. If you live an hour away from the store by car and you burn gallons of gas to get to it, you can add the price of that gas to the bottom of your receipt.

There is also the cost to the environment that your “savings” incurs. Walking to the farmer’s market means you’re not fighting your way through traffic. And that means you’re releasing fewer greenhouse gases into the environment as well as reducing the knock-on effect of resource depletion and habitat loss. Your local market is also more likely to offer locally made or grown products that aren’t being shipped in from all over the world, with all the packaging and fossil fuels that entails.

Jobs, jobs, jobs

But what about all those jobs found under the big stores’ cavernous roofs? These tend to be low-paying, provide skimpy benefits packages, and have work schedules that are inconsistent and offer a number of hours that falls just below the number needed to qualify for benefits.

Besides, according to the Small Business Administration’s 2019 Small Business Profile, the sort of small businesses that mostly make up local economies actually added 1.8 million net new jobs in the United States during the latest year the report studied, and small businesses have provided almost 13 million new jobs in the past 25 years. Small local businesses can offer their workers advantages large retail chains simply can’t or won’t.

Doing well and doing good

Big businesses have a lot of cash to spread around, and some take being good corporate citizens very seriously. But local businesses are nimbler givers, able to direct their philanthropic dollars where they do the most good. Local businesses benefit from a strong community, so their owners tend to be more engaged community members, punching above their weight in support for community causes.

In fact, small businesses donate 250 percent more than large businesses to their communities’ nonprofits and causes, creating a positive cycle of giving back locally.

Customer service

If you’ve ever spent a half-hour on hold with a help desk representative who’s located on another continent — or worse, one that’s not even human — you probably have strong feelings about customer care. Local merchants and service providers, who are more likely to meet their customers in-person and eye-to-eye, are more motivated to keep those customers happy. Repeat business is key in the local economy, making every encounter important.

The information included here was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, however Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company and its employees make no guarantee of results and assume no liability in connection with any training, materials, suggestions, or information provided. It is the user’s responsibility to confirm compliance with any applicable local, state, or federal regulations. Information obtained from or via Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company should not be used as the basis for legal advice and should be confirmed with alternative sources.

Sources: Forbes, SCORE