08 Nov Shopping Confusion: What Does Buying Local Mean to You?
The temperature is dropping, leaves are falling, and the holidays are right around the corner. As we’re scrambling to accomplish the tasks left on our to-do lists for the year, it’s hard not to think about shopping. From advertisements telling us what we need to buy to signs in local stores encouraging us to “shop local,” businesses local and national are trying to stay top of mind.
Small Business Saturday will take place on November 24, just a day after Black Friday, which is still considered to be the biggest shopping day of the year. Thousands of residents here in Bloomington/Normal and cities around the country will head out to support and shop at local businesses. But what does shopping and buying local actually mean and why is it important?
It’s a simple concept, but there’s some confusion as to what shopping and buying locally is. Consider these scenarios:
- You purchase zucchini from a locally owned grocery chain that sources their zucchini from Oklahoma.
- Instead of visiting their physical store, you decide to order six bags of ground coffee from the locally-owned coffee shop in their online store.
- Your family goes out for a meal at the nearest Chick-fil-A, which is owned by a local entrepreneur.
- You regularly buy a product from the local Best Buy. However, if they don’t have it on their shelves, you refuse to buy online since you want to support your local Best Buy.
Are these instances of shopping local? Before answering, let’s define shopping local.
What is Shopping Local & Why it’s Important
Here are two explanations as to what shopping local is and why it’s important.
“Going local does not mean walling off the outside world. It means nurturing locally owned businesses which use local resources sustainably, employ local workers at decent wages and serve primarily local consumers. It means becoming more self-sufficient and less dependent on imports. Control moves from the boardrooms of distant corporations and back into the community where it belongs.” — Michael H. Shuman, Going Local
“When you shop at independent or local-to-you businesses, more money is kept within your community because local businesses often use or buy from local service providers, farms, and companies. Buying locally helps grow other businesses as well as your region’s tax base.” — Gretchen Sowers
To sum this up, shopping locally is important for each of us because it provides benefits beyond solely exchanging our money for a product or service. Our purchases help employ local residents, provide additional tax dollars that will go towards supporting important programs and initiatives, and revenue that will likely be spent here as well.
According to these definitions, you could make an argument against all three scenarios above being instances of shopping local since the zucchini and coffee beans are being sourced elsewhere. However, supporting local businesses and the benefits that come with that don’t have to be black and white or all or nothing.
Here in Bloomington/Normal, we have many local retail stores that are working hard to gain local support. One of the conversations that has come out of these discussions and efforts is around shopping in-person versus online. This has created a war against online shopping. What’s not taken into consideration is that there are often many local sellers that provide goods and services online. Although you will almost always pay a little bit more to shop locally, you don’t have to sacrifice convenience, that is, if local creators and business owners make their products and services available online.
What’s Your Opinion on Shopping Local?
As you go through your shopping list during the holiday season, consider what shopping locally means to you. What’s your definition of shopping local? Is buying online from a local business still shopping local? Do you make an effort to buy from local businesses? Why or why not? Please share below and on Twitter @Consultstraza.