December 5, 2022

Small Business Advice

Buy Local

Jerry Osteryoung | 10/6/2008

Wisdom consists of the anticipation of consequences.
— Norman Cousins

Most consumers have a choice as to where they spend their money, from “big box” or national stores to locally based businesses. The thrust of this column is to encourage you to not only support local businesses, but also to become a raving fan for your local firms. So many consumers believe that there is little difference between making purchases at a local business and at a chain store. This is simply not true. Buying locally supports your community in more ways than just the revenues generated by the sale of the product or service.

Numerous studies show that buying local is better for a community. In 2004, the Andersonville Development Corporation studied the Andersonville neighborhood, which is located on Chicago’s north side. What they found was that local businesses generated 70% more local economic impact per square foot than “big box” stores. They also found that each $100 spent on local businesses created $68 in additional economic benefits. With “big box” stores, the additional local impact was only $43.

Another important way that local businesses contribute to their community is through their support of non-profits. Local small businesses exceed chain stores in their support of local non-profits by a factor of 250%. When I chaired and served on the boards of various non-profits, we focused on raising local funds, because it was almost impossible to find a person in a “big box” store who wanted to understand our local issues and contribute financially. In fact, when I went to the store managers to talk about some type of support for local non-profits, they just about always said that they had no control over this and that corporate made all of these decisions.

In addition, in my experience — as well as in the experiences of so many others — the overall service at local businesses is so much better than that of bigger national corporations. Whenever I have had a problem with a national store, it has been so difficult to deal with. So many people have told me horror stories about being unable to speak to anyone about the significant problem they were having with a national store. Dealing with local stores is so much easier. If I have a problem at a local business, I know I can go right to the owner and get it remedied. This is certainly not the case at “big box” stores.

Yet another benefit of buying locally is that local merchants must support their local customers’ needs. While “big box” stores have national marketing plans that they implement in all of their stores, local merchants must listen to their local customers and give them what they want.

Personally, I know that I do not want to live in a community that looks like all the others. By supporting and encouraging the local businesses that make our area so special, we nurture the uniqueness of our community, setting it apart from the rest. Local businesses are your neighbors and community supporters. Support local firms by voting for them through your purchases.

Now go out and make sure that you are supporting your local businesses, because by doing so, you are supporting your community in so many ways.

You can do this!

Jerry Osteryoung is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship in the College of Business at Florida State University. He is also the Director of the Entrepreneurship Program at FSU and Executive Director of the Jim Moran Institute of Global Entrepreneurship. He can be reached by e-mail at jostery@comcast.net or by phone at 850-644-3372.

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