02 May Shopping Small Is About Our Families
“But Daddy,” my 10-year-old daughter Charlotte said to me. “Wal-Mart, Target and Amazon give you better deals! Shouldn’t we shop there for holiday presents?”
My daughter and I were discussing where to go to get holiday presents this year, and she had definitely made a good point. Large retail chains such as the three Charlotte mentioned do, in fact, often give consumers great deals.
But small businesses make up an astounding 97% of the companies in the world. They have been the backbone of the economy for as long as capitalism and commerce has existed. I thought about this fact and then I thought about the reasons often given to “shop small,” such as those recently given by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance:
1. Local Character and Prosperity
In an increasingly homogenized world, communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character have an economic advantage.
2. Community Well-Being
Locally owned businesses build strong communities by sustaining vibrant town centers, linking neighbors in a web of economic and social relationships, and contributing to local causes.
3. Local Decision-Making
Local ownership ensures that important decisions are made locally by people who live in the community and who will feel the impacts of those decisions.
4. Keeping Dollars in the Local Economy
Compared to chain stores, locally owned businesses recycle a much larger share of their revenue back into the local economy, enriching the whole community.
5. Job and Wages
Locally owned businesses create more jobs locally and, in some sectors, provide better wages and benefits than chains do.
Entrepreneurship fuels America’s economic innovation and prosperity, and serves as a key means for families to move out of low-wage jobs and into the middle class.
7. Public Benefits and Costs
Local stores in town centers require comparatively little infrastructure and make more efficient use of public services relative to big-box stores and strip shopping malls.
8. Environmental Sustainability
Local stores help to sustain vibrant, compact, walkable town centers, which in turn are essential to reducing sprawl, automobile use, habitat loss, and air and water pollution.
A marketplace of tens of thousands of small businesses is the best way to ensure innovation and low prices over the long-term.
10. Product Diversity
A multitude of small businesses, each selecting products — based not on a national sales plan but on their own interests and the needs of their local customers — guarantees a much broader range of product choices.
I thought about all of these reasons, but instead of telling Charlotte about these reasons, I told her about her own friends and family:
“You remember my Uncle Leo? He used to own a vitamins and healthy foods store in Brooklyn.”
“Yeah, Dad,” replied Charlotte. “So what?”
“How about our friend Frankie, who owns the toy store? And Dvora, who owns the art store in Port Washington? And Cousin Julie, who owns a gluten-free baked goods store? Your best friend Becca’s mom Allie, who owns the home goods boutique in town?”
“I know them, of course,” replied Charlotte with an expression only a pre-teen could muster. What’s your point, Dad?”
I finished: “When we shop at those businesses, we support our own friends and family. Every small business in our town, and everywhere, is owned by someone with a family that needs support. When you shop small, you support families in your own town.”
“Wow,” said Charlotte, “When you put it that way, it seems like it’s worth it to shop small.”
This weekend is the 4th Annual Small Business Saturday, and millions of people will do their holiday shopping at small, locally owned businesses across the country and world. There will be lots of great deals to be had this Saturday, but don’t shop small for the great deals, or even any one of the 10 reasons listed above.
Shop small for Uncle Leo, Frankie, Dvora, Cousin Julie, and Allie.
Shop small, this Saturday and every day, for the friends and families in your towns and everywhere.
I’d LOVE to hear from you in the Comments section below — what are your favorite small businesses and local retailers? Share your stories and links below!