You know what happens — you're curled up on the couch in your pajamas catching up on your favorite shows and reading the latest highlights from your friends and family on your phone. When you're suddenly captivated by the huckleberry jam they're eating on TV, you search for a jar for yourself on your mobile shopping site because you're hungry and who doesn't like jam?
You know what happens next. You stumble down the rabbit hole clicking on other unique gifts, and eventually find a jar of something similar and drop it into your cart. You can even have it by the weekend - perfect for when your best friend from college is in town. It will go great with the brunch you have planned. All this happens lickety-split while you are snug in your jammies - and you didn't even have to leave the house.
Even when you're shopping online, you can make an impact locally. Truth is, the reason you took a little excursion down the rabbit hole is you were strategically looking for a locally owned business offering jams, jellies, and perhaps even syrups and wines grown on local farms. Supporting local, independent businesses matters to you even more than shopping in your pajamas. Local shopping builds up your community and you know what a different that can make.
You likely already know why it's important (and rewarding) to shop local. Some reasons make obvious sense — like financially supporting your neighbors instead of the executives of a faceless national chain. But what you get out of your purchase is more than a jar of delicious fruit spread, and so let's share a selfie of you making a difference by shopping local.
Use what you know to shop local
If you have become accustomed to the convenience of online shopping, you may think your only option to support small business is at a farmers market or a local bookstore. Yes, those are definitely smart ways to shop local, but more and more you can find a locally owned business through their online site, or as part of a collective of participating businesses under a single URL. So how do you find these online stores?
Social media is one of the best options. Community pages often share specials and "new arrivals" within the local business community and point you in the right direction of local small businesses. And while you've got your phone out, use your maps app to find stores near you. many of them will include a link to their website, or at least a direct link to their phone number.
Why not give a local retailer a call? They might have a product similar or close to what you want, and then you can easily put your dollars back into your local economy. That smart phone still comes in hand as a phone in moments like this.
In addition to local purchases, you can support small businesses in your community by leaving reviews. Whether in the maps app, on the website of a local restaurant, or by creating a post with photos and a rave review, spread the word about the local shop that is providing great service in your community.
Go and see and spend
In every community you can find a hidden gem where you enjoy the best dining, or a delicious craft beer, or even discover small business owners who have been making a living in the same shop for more than a decade. In-person shopping encapsulates the idea of shopping local, but the important factor, whether in store on online, is about keeping the revenue in the hands of the community.
Every local entrepreneur is plugged into a financial network that you might take for granted. That network includes local chefs who operate food trucks, the landscaping service provider that also handles snow removal in the winter, or a local artist with an Etsy side hustle. It also includes the community financial institutions that support all of them with business loans for equipment and supplies.
When you choose a small local business over a big box store, it's far more likely that the small business you give your dollars to will bank locally. That means your money stays in the community, rather than getting syphoned off to a national chain corporate headquarters located in another state.
If you are new to your community, go in person and seek out a local computer repair store when you need to get the screen repaired on your phone or when you need to replace your lawn mower. If you've called your community home for a while spread the word to others about your favorite businesses.
Hungry? Eat local, too
Odds are your favorite local restaurant changed its operations significantly since with the onset of dining out restrictions, but those changes led to new and creative ways to connect with customers. Many restaurants have upped their takeout game and adopted an app-first approach. Look up a new-to-you restaurant in town (maybe one a neighbor recommended to you) and order out on your delivery app of choice. Boom: local small business supported!
A lot of small businesses have also instituted curbside pickup, rewards programs, and gift card giveaways as pandemic adaptations. Follow your favorite locals on social media and you'll know when and where the specials are!
Keep in mind the local farmers market and the regional flea market are full of upstart entrepreneurs from your local community, many of them trying to make a living and go from online seller to bona fide small business owner. It's another great place to stroll with friends and keep your money within the local economy.
Each small local business and local restaurant are fighting for your attention against the national chain locations. Help them win their small battles with your dollars and your endorsement. Spread the word like it's a tasty jam!
How is my one little purchase making a difference?
Of course buying a latte from a local coffee shop rather than a chain store feels good, but how does shopping locally stimulate local economies in a deeper sense?
One, you are contributing to the economic prosperity of your area. Whether funding local jobs or improving civic economics, your dollars stay in your community and fuel the success of others, whether businesses or individuals. Shopping local is more than a feeling or a tagline, it's the way we lift up our community's financial stability.
Some cities in America are taking this concept very seriously. Akron, Ohio introduced a "shop local" app that gave local residents rewards for supporting small businesses in town. It generated half a million dollars in its first year — money that stayed in Akron in what one city official described as being a "circular economy."
Two, you are strengthening your ties to the community. Independent businesses and those who support them — rom banks and credit unions, to conscientious shoppers like you — make a local community distinctive and successful and weave the financial fabric of community. As you engage in local shopping, you are also meeting your neighbors, becoming an active part of your community and create ties to the place you call home.
Three, believe it or not, you can save money by shopping locally. While huge chain department stores and online retailers leverage their huge scale to deliver savings most mom-and-pop stores can't compete with, that doesn't mean small businesses don't run killer deals. Why drive to the chain store and fight the crowds or sit in traffic. Use those gallons of gas wisely and find an alternative store close to home.
Small purchases lead to a big impact
Ultimately, local businesses help a community thrive. Shopping locally, eating locally, and even banking locally at community financial institutions produces a strong economy at home.
Chain stores aren't very invested in your community, and your earnings exit the local economy when they're given to a national chain. Keep in mind, some local businesses include locally owned-and-operated franchises, so get to know the hardware stores and pharmacies in your neighborhood.
Strong local economies are a necessary prerequisite for a strong national one, a major reason why shopping local is so important. Your money definitely leaves your community when you give it to Amazon. So make the effort and surf the web to find the locally owned business, the greasy spoon, and the local farms where you're more than a consumer: you're their neighbor.
Keep your money local
Whether your favorite place to shop is around the corner or on your phone, supporting your local economy can be done easily from either. The same is true for where you keep your money. Another way to support local business is to bank locally.
This might not seem as obvious, but your local bank or credit union is just as invested in community as the shop two blocks over with the killer baked goods. You know it's so much more beneficial to shop local, you love to eat local, and your money will do the most good for your community when it stays local.
Discover more about Sustainable Banking in our previous blog post, "What is the best bank to use?"