Author: Suzie Vance, EnviroPerks
Many communities have “shop local” mentalities, and push this through advertising, tax breaks, and other incentives. Have you ever wondered WHY they do this, and why is it important? What happens when we DON’T shop local? Are there unseen benefits to shopping locally?
Why do communities promote shopping local?
One reason seems obvious: more money, including taxes, stays in the community instead of becoming part of an outside corporation’s revenue. Local businesses often don’t have customers outside of the local area, so their survival depends upon residents shopping locally. If residents shop at big-box stores instead of local merchants, local merchants lose. And, big box stores offer variety and convenience that many local businesses can’t provide. In our on-the-go, over-scheduled lives, we have limited time to shop, and we often choose convenience over all else.
Why would you go to three different locations to get everything you need when you can get it all in one stop?
Business leaders realize this and see the loss of revenue from local taxes as a big issue. It affects their ability to function and provide services to their communities. Think of it this way: If our tax dollars as a nation were being paid to a foreign country instead of our own, our government would not be able to afford to function or provide services to its citizens. Infrastructures would degrade from lack of maintenance, social programs would be unfunded, and jobs would be lost. All because we as a country chose to spend our dollars somewhere else.
So, businesses actively encourage residents to shop locally—keep our revenue here. The hope is that local residents will see the monetary value in shopping locally and will make the effort to spend more of their time and dollars in support of the community as a whole. Sometimes this works, but often, it does not.
What happens when residents don’t shop locally?
First, there are fewer taxes paid in support of the local community. This means that municipalities have fewer dollars to run the government, provide infrastructure, and provide public services like police, fire, and ambulance, and other vital services.
Second, businesses close and people lose their jobs because no customers means no revenue. These former business owners, and their former employees, then join the ranks of the unemployed. They often have to seek employment away from their communities, which means longer commutes and less time with their families—and less time to shop locally.
Beyond the obvious benefits of shopping locally, are there other benefits that we may not see? Of course! How many of us long for the “good old days” where we knew our neighbors, and had time to interact with them? Where businesses were places to socialize while we got things done? Where everyone looked out for each other and felt a true sense of community?
This is something that happens when we shop locally. We get to know our business owners and the people who work for and with them. They become friends, thereby widening our social circle. For many of us, true social connections have become fewer as we focus on the number of “friends” we have instead of on the quality of the relationships that we have with real friends.
Make no mistake, real relationships with people we interact with on a regular basis enrich our lives. This is one of the often overlooked benefits of shopping locally. Our sense of community is enhanced because we KNOW our business owners—and they know us. They understand us and our needs much better than big box stores ever could. They are more willing to provide the goods and services that we ask for because WE are asking for them, whereas a big box store is more focused on whether or not a particular good or service will lead to more sales. Customer service may take a back seat to profits when businesses don’t feel a true connection with their customers. Local businesses understand this and foster the relationships that they have with their customers, who often become friends.
What are the rewards of shopping locally?
We support our local businesses who, in return, support us. Our local governments have more revenue to provide needed services and infrastructure and to enhance our community as a whole. We develop true connections with local business owners and have a true sense of community. This sense of community enriches our lives, while the revenue produced provides comfort, stability, and security in our lives and the lives of others in our homes and communities.