Why It Matters to Shop Small

Posted by Jill Erickson on

Well, this is awkward.  I'm about to tell you why you should resist shopping big and corporate and instead embrace shopping small and local.  This topic is obviously for my benefit.  You know it, I know it, let's just lay that out on the table first and foremost.   The more you shop MY store, the better off MY life will be.  This is fact. 

But my goal here is to point out what is perhaps not as obvious: shopping small is for the benefit of everyone, owner and shopper alike.   Believe it or not, there aren't enough people who like me enough and/or make enough money to shop at my store solely for my sake.  Counting on those few people would be unfair, irresponsible, and unsustainable.  So, now that my selfish motives have been addressed, let's go shopping (small).

Small Businesses care about you and your experience.  Like, really, actually.
The retail chain, Express, used to pay a greeter to compliment everyone who walked thru their mall-sized door.  Maybe they still do this, I don't know.  While that is all nice and good, the amount of time and energy this poor, underpaid employee was able to muster for a single potential customer was limited to the length of a 4 to 8 word sentence.  "Ohmygod, I like your shoes!".  If you're me, you considered whether or not going into the store is worth this awkward, ingenuous exchange.  If I could sneak past her, I would.

When you're shopping at a small business, even if you're not dealing with the owner, the employee is likely invested enough to dish you something genuine.  We really, actually want to get to know you because we really, actually want to meet your need, even if all you need is to gush about how amazing your breakfast at Neighborhood Cafe' was (all the pancakes, please).  Whether you become a regular shopper or not, my small hope is that you leave the store feeling like you just experienced something cool and unique.  My big hope is that you feel like you made a friend.  Both would be ideal.  We care about your experience.  We want you to come back.  We want you to tell your friends.  And if you feel inclined to share your massive pancake next time, we'd be ok with that too.

Small Businesses drive industries (and our lives) forward.
If it were up to Walmart, we might all be wearing the same Jordache Jeans and ill-fitting, poly/cotton collared shirt (the plaid one with thin glitter stripe, so fab).  Thankfully, small businesses identify consumer demand first because we are closer to the people.  Your feedback isn't trickling up a corporate ladder.  We're on the field with you, listening for what interests you and drives your buying decisions. 

Small businesses have to keep moving forward with newer, better, trendier, safer, more efficient offerings and ideas to stay competitive, to earn and keep your business.  An individual or small business may sell a new idea or product off to a big company (or the big company might swoop in and steal it), but make no mistake, corporations don't invent things or propel change, people do.  Just ask Minneapolis-based mega store, Target, as they have been rumored to steal ideas from a certain small, local gift shop in the Twin Cities.  I dare throw shade at our beloved Target!?  Settle down.  I assure you Target's success will not be harmed by any of my words ever in life.

Small Businesses contribute to the economic success of your community.
It's true, Google it.  You don't have to be a math wiz or business major to figure it out.  The more money circulating in a neighborhood/city/state/country, the healthier it is.  If you really want to geek out over this data, start here.

When you spend money at a large chain, approximately 57% of that money leaves the community to pay for things like imported goods/freight, foreign labor, large accounting and marketing firms, and executive salaries.

When you spend money at a small business, only around 30% is spent outside the local economy.  It's because we're buying, shipping, contracting, hiring, and donating locally.  Also, I don't know a single small business owner who is bringing home any amount of proverbial bacon worth mentioning.  Most of us have to put any profit right back into the business in order to stay afloat.  It gets real when KS95 radio calls to ask if you'd like to participate in their "double your paycheck" feature.  "Um...I don't think I'm eligible to play that game."  That happened to me yesterday. 

Small Businesses support YOUR organizations and charities.
Walk into any chain or big box store and ask the employee at the counter if their company would donate to your bowling league, kid's baseball team, charity fundraiser, etc.  Likely, your request will be received with a dumbfounded stare.  If you're lucky, they might be willing to track down whoever is in charge at that moment.  If you're really lucky, that person might actually stop what they're doing long enough to tell you, "Sorry, you'll have to contact our corporate office for that."  If you're persistent, you might ask for the name, number, or email of the person or department who can help you.  The reply will likely be, "I don't know, you can Google it."

I should know how much Spoils of Wear contributes to local organizations and charities, but I'm not all that responsible.  I get requests almost weekly, sometimes multiple times a day.  So long as there is some sort of official letter of request and tax info, I rarely turn anyone down.  That's not an open invitation to ask me for stuff.  It's simply an example of a small business (like all that others that I know) caring enough about the individuals in it's community to give back.  PS. ALWAYS approach a small business in person, and if you can buy even the smallest something while you're there, DO IT.

Small businesses... 
  • pay taxes.  We're contributing to safe, clean streets in our neighborhood as well as schools and other public needs.
  • offer fairer wages to employees.  Turning over employees is beyond painful for a small business, so we try hard to hire the right people and treat them well.
  • buy things at other small businesses.  Some of my best customers are other small business owners.  We know firsthand the local impact of our purchasing power, so we try to do it right.  Also, we believe in karma.
  • share their knowledge freely with other aspiring entrepreneurs.  Because the more small businesses there are, the better off everyone is for all the aforementioned reasons and many more.

So that's it from where I sit.  Small Businesses contribute more to OUR social and economic world. In January of 2016, I made a major lifestyle shift to always choose local when there was an option.  As a result, I have less junk, more quality things, better experiences, and new friendships that add up to a whole lot of joy. 

Go forth and shop small!