This is topic I have been thinking a lot about recently. Basically it boils down to "local business vs. seeking best deal" and having the convenience to either purchase an item online or all your goods in one store. I believe both of these issues hurt local businesses.
1. Seeking the best deal. I'm the first to admit that I like a good deal. Before I started Ecological Babies, I "enjoyed" shopping at local businesses but usually spent most of my money at a big box store like Target. Local shops were "specialty" rather than my main source of products. I didn't get to know the owners of these local businesses and my top priority was where I could get an item the cheapest. I'm sure some of you can relate to that.
I'm hear to say that you are missing out on something even more awesome than saving a buck or two. Local business owners are often amazing people who contribute their blood, sweat, and tears to the shop you enter. (Yes, this can be also said for owners of local franchises.) Supporting local businesses is like eating a meal from scratch verses prepackaged meals. The experience (if done well) is much more satisfying. Next time you step into a local business, I want you to think about the owner as a real person with a vision for their business. Get to know them and ask them questions. Then try it at another business. Your sense of your community will be enriched beyond what you can imagine.
Do you want to know a secret? If you stay connected to your local community, you will also snag a lot of good deals. You might even find that you'd rather buy a quality item at your local shop than a cheap item at a box store that is half the price but will be destroyed in half the time. We have deals going on that are featured on our Facebook page. This month we even are offering free shipping.
2. Convenience. When you live in a place like South Bend, Indiana (where I am currently living and originally from), the selection and options seem limited both in local businesses and box stores. The culture in this town is to shop online for most goods and to scour for free shipping. It's unfortunate that businesses have come and gone very quickly here because the members of the community don't seek out what is available here. Fortunately, many local businesses (like us!) are also online to make shopping more convenient and accessible to you.
Our American culture is infatuated with "convenience" and often we are going out of our way for something "convenient." Take "fast food" for instance. How many times have we sat in a really slow line for this junk food? Do you have items in your cupboard or refrigerator that you could have put in a small cooler or bag and eaten? It's not about convenience but a solution to poor planning. I'm the first to admit that I get caught without a solid plan. It happens!
Now, I'd rather save up my money and have a much more enjoyable (and healthy!) meal at a local restaurant than a couple runs through a "fast food" joint. It's more special too, since it is an intentional act rather than feeding a starving belly (and cranky mom/dad/child!) on the run. Don't you think?
What's your relationship like with your community? Are you just getting to know it? How many business owners do you know personally?
Jen Starks, Owner