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Six Reasons Shopping Local is Better -- Even Online

Shopping local is about far more than a warm fuzzy. From superior customer service to bespoke products, here's why shopping local is better, even if you're doing it through a computer

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Most of us have already been told the tremendous economic value that small businesses bring to both local communities and the American economy at large. But they do so much more beyond statistics. Small businesses are what create pride, character and camaraderie in their communities, by producing unique goods, services and places that can’t be had anywhere else in the world. Imagine--would you rather walk down a street of boutiques showcasing regional goods, restaurants featuring local produce, and cafes that showcase your community’s art, or a street of chain stores that serve the exact same food, drinks, clothes and aesthetic from here to Milwakuee? That’s the cultural power of small business.

Of course, during COVID, many small business brick-and-mortar stores have had to shut their doors, or re-open with new mask requirements, longer lines, and limited hours. For this reason, online shopping is skyrocketing, and many people assume megastores like Amazon or Walmart have better products, faster shipping and better customer service since they’ve been in the online game longer.

But is that really the case?

Here are six reasons it’s better to shop locally now more than ever, whether it’s in person or through your computer:

You’re strengthening your neighborhood--even if you’re buying online

For every $100 spent at a small business, $68 stays in the community, according to the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies. That money keeps your neighbors employed, keeps crime low, and keeps buildings open and productive. Even if you’re buying online from a business just two blocks away, that money is ultimately going back into your community in the form of rent payment, employee payroll, supermarkets, etc. It’s a trickle effect that improves everything. This brings a whole new meaning to “shopping therapy.” 

You’re more likely to get a higher quality product

We all appreciate the the need for standardized goods like Sharpie pens or an engine replacement part. But beyond these logistical staples, it’s hard for the assembly-line product to win over the bespoke. Local businesses survive nearly on reputation alone, and they usually founded their business because they absolutely love what they do or make. That love (and pressure) translates into the final product. This applies to everything from burgers to jewelry to furniture, but also services, like music lessons, tax preparation, and gardening.

You’re likely to get better customer service

For the same reasons as above, small businesses are more likely to know your name, and less likely to treat you like a number. If you need help with an order, rather than navigating the phone tree at a mega-corporation and having to repeat your story to 10 different reps, you are likely to connect straight with a human, or get a more personalized email. More often than not you’re talking straight to the creator-- no middle man.

You are helping lower exposure during a pandemic

In large grocery store chains and megastore warehouses, both products and employees are typically subjected to more human-to-human contact than is possible in physically smaller stores. This is even before you consider the number of hands a package goes through in the global shipping chain, if you buy from an online megastore. Brick-and-mortars that have reopened typically have mask requirements and hand sanitizing stations throughout the store, and since it’s a small space (rather than a big warehouse), it is easier for the shopkeeper to disinfect surfaces after hours and throughout the day. Local businesses with online shops, typically run by only a handful of people behind the scenes, see your product going through even fewer hands both during production and shipping.

Small businesses may not experience supply issues as fast

Back in March, when household staples like flour and toilet paper began to vanish on the shelves of Target and Walmart, it was smaller, specialty stores that saved the day. This includes ethnic groceries, independent produce markets, and even corner quick-marts. As COVID-19 rates rise, if America faces another panic shortage of goods, your local market could be your secret to staying on top of household staples. Wouldn’t it be great if they knew your name, too?

Small businesses keep meaningful jobs in your community

For the past 25 years, two out of three new jobs have been created by small businesses. America can’t afford to lose that rate. But to many of those employees, these jobs are more than paychecks. Most small business owners go into business for themselves because of a passion, and enough bravery to turn that passion into a fulfilling career. This care tends to be shared by their employees. If you work for a small business, your job likely doesn’t involve doing the same menial task day in and day out. Instead you have multiple roles, connecting straight from the CEO to the customer. In this way, when you work for a small business, it’s easier to feel connected to, and take more pride in, your good or service, as opposed to when your company is owned by millions of shareholders, who live all over the world and the business is run by executives in a distant city. 

If you are shopping local, don’t be afraid to let it show. Follow your local businesses on twitter, instagram and facebook. Many businesses offer special deals or pop-ups through these channels, or showcase new products based on your feedback. It’s a great way to keep the conversation going, and keeping the neighborhood strong--even online.

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