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Moore: Don’t shop online, shop local

June 11, 2018

True North

By Bill Moore: Spring seems to have lasted all of about 17 days this year, and that means summer is just around the corner. Many will be spending the next few weeks purchasing things for the summer and outdoor activities. People will be shopping for cooler clothes, replacements for the old lawn mowers and garden supplies. Supplies for the lake, beach or mountains will be on many shopping lists. Don’t tell the kids, but the back-to-school sales are almost ready to hit. Shoppers will be looking for bargain prices for everything from anti-gravity boots to zip ties. Like many, they will be turning to the internet for their shopping.

Shopping on the internet is fun, convenient and very often results in some savings over items bought in a store. But before you turn away from local bricks and mortar retailers, I want to encourage you to all think of a very simple phrase: “Shop local!”

Why should you “shop local?” There are hundreds of reasons to do so, but the most important reasons are that by shopping locally you are supporting the local economy. You are supporting local jobs. You are supporting investment in the community. You are supporting the local businesses who face an incredible threat from retail giants who do not necessarily have your hometown in mind when they ship items to you. By the way, shopping locally is also a lot of fun.

Sure, pressing a few keys and clicking away can be easier and more convenient, and the deals are sometimes better than those in town. But how much are you really saving? (Spoiler alert: most money spent online never hits the local economy.)

According to the research firm Civic Economics, an economic analysis and strategic planning firm with offices in Chicago and Tulsa, for every $100 spent in a local small business, $68 stays local. Spending that $100 at a local branch of a chain store results in $43 remaining locally. That same $100 spent online sees virtually no money remaining in the community in which the items purchased.

Civic Economics looked at “the multiplier effect” of spending locally on retail purchases. An articlepublished at the American Independent Business Alliance has the multiplier broken down into three parts:

  • Direct impact is spending done by a business in the local economy to operate the business, including inventory, utilities, equipment and pay to employees.
  • Indirect impact happens as dollars the local business spent at other area businesses re-circulate.
  • Induced impact refers to the additional consumer spending that happens as employees, business owners and others spend their income in the local economy.
Research shows that, on average, 48 percent of each purchase at a local, independent business is recirculated locally. The total impact of that local spending (direct, indirect and induced) is 68 percent.

Another factor that supports local shopping is that locally owned businesses tailor their inventory to reflect local purchasing practices. As a result, you are more likely to find what you are looking for locally. In addition, in Vermont, most local businesses are not part of a larger chain. As a result, the chances are good that you will find more unique and eclectic items locally simply by walking into the shops.

Local businesses tend to be much more service-oriented and responsive than their online competitors. They are looking for your repeat business and for your word-of-mouth referrals. As a result, local businesses greet you with a warm welcome and go out of their way to satisfy their customers.
So before you start searching the internet for the latest in fashion, furnishings and future purchases, take a look around at the hundreds of options available to you locally. You’ll be supporting your friends and neighbors, contributing to the local economy, and as an added bonus, getting a little healthier from walking around in the many great downtown and village shopping areas.

Bill Moore is president and CEO of the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce.