There is a lot of buzz lately about shopping locally. People are getting passionate about supporting locally owned and operated businesses; run by people they know. I love the idea of supporting entrepreneurs! I think knowing the person you buy products from, the people you do business with is so much more comforting. It feels good and right.
But I have a couple of issues with the way this is sometimes portrayed and the lengths it is taken to. Here’s why.
First, nationally or regionally owned businesses do employ your neighbor! The ad touting that when you buy local you are helping pay for a kids music lessons or buy their soccer uniform. True. And that’s good. But guess what? When you buy from a national conglomerate you are doing the same thing. The people who work in that store depend on their wages and often profit-sharing to pay for their kid’s school supplies, baseball fees and their own retirement! Gosh, when you buy bread from the regional grocery chain, you are helping me pay my son’s college tuition! When those sales go away, so do staff. When sales are down, so is my husband’s profit-sharing. That hits a little close to home for me.
Second, many national chains are franchised meaning the local store is owned and operated by your neighbor. This is especially true in the food industry. By eating at the national pizza chain you are paying for a kid’s braces! Our world is much smaller and more connected than this movement reflects. I heard an ad on the radio encouraging people to buy their car at the dealership that is locally owned so your money stays right here in your community. Well duh! The wages for the sales people, the support staff, the mechanics all stay local. But if you really want to be local, you better only buy a car manufactured in your community or the money is leaving!
Just to be clear, I love the idea of supporting great businesses! I like promoting good behavior with my dollars. I would like to propose a different spin to the Shop Local movement though. How about we encourage others to shop intentionally. Know the business you buy from and what kind of corporate citizen they are. Know what they do to support the community and their employees. Learn about their environmental practices, their manufacturing sources, their employee benefits. Yes, it’s more work. Sounds like a first world problem to me.
Take the time to get to know the companies you patronize. Learn where they stand and make choices about how to spend your dollar. Make an impact in your community and our small, interconnected world by how you spend your dollars. That’s a powerful way to make a difference every single day.
And that’s a movement I can get behind!