Founder and CEO of The Bid Lab, a bid consulting firm.
There’s something special about the money you put into your local economy, and not just the outcome of better-quality products and services. Supporting small businesses gives your business and your local community — benefits that no national chain can provide.
Especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, local companies need your support. According to The Washington Post, without the customer base and resources that larger businesses have, over 100,000 small businesses have permanently closed due to the pandemic. A beloved local business shutting its doors is always disappointing, but it may have greater implications for your community than you might expect.
Garnering relationships with small businesses can prove instrumental to your own operations. With many organizations scaling back hours and condensing delivery windows, having a connection with a supplier or vendor can be the difference between having the resources you require or not.
Think back to the beginning of the pandemic when getting your hands on hand sanitizer was near impossible. If you rely on a big-box store for all your office supplies, it’s unlikely that they would go out of their way to stash a bottle of hand sanitizer in the back for you to ensure you had enough for your employees. But, I would wager that your office supply shop down the street that you’ve worked with for the last ten years would definitely not let you go without.
MORE FOR YOU
Not only does shopping locally help you; it also helps everyone around you. Here’s what you’re supporting when you buy local.
1. An Improved Economy
We all know that spending money locally positively affects the economy, but you may not know how dramatic the impact can be. According to The Andersonville Study of Retail Economics, $68 of every $100 spent in the Chicago community remained there, compared to $43 of every $100 spent at nonlocal businesses. Spending your cash at small businesses creates a positive ripple effect because they are so involved in local affairs. They have an incentive to support other local companies, putting these funds back into circulation within the neighboring community.
2. Excellent Customer Service
A bigger company isn’t always synonymous with better service. Visiting a large company website where you have to dig through a list of names to find the person you’re looking for usually isn’t a personable experience. Businesses with thousands of customers across various geographic areas simply can’t keep up with the pristine level of customer service a small business can warmly provide. To them, losing a couple of customers won’t be extremely impactful in the year-end sales report. But, with a smaller customer base like a local bookstore, every person counts. Owners can maintain a direct relationship with employees to uphold the values that they, and their patrons, expect.
As members of the community themselves, small business owners are experts on the people they serve, their preferences and their interests. Local businesses can create long-term relationships that last a lifetime.
3. Widespread Community Support
It’s no doubt that local businesses are in tune with, and responsive to, issues impacting the community. They are one of the first to step in when there’s a concern at hand. During the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve seen these companies provide their compassionate support and resources, donating everything from food assistance to face masks. They’re able to make a difference because they see and care about the daily hardships of the community.
4. Ethical Consumerism
Purchasing from a small business means it’s easy to know where the product or service comes from. When companies start to grow and expand, they may become more invested in profit and less concerned about the people affected by their decisions. As such, it’s common for larger corporations to lose transparency with customers and let unethical practices go unnoticed. It can be almost impossible for a consumer to know who produced what he/she is purchasing and what kind of company practices he/she is supporting.
Ways Your Business Can Help Local Businesses
While all the above reasons for shopping locally make sense, what are steps you can take today to change your purchasing habits? Here are a few things you can do right away:
• Pick up coffee for the team from a local shop instead of Starbucks or Dunkin’.
• Send any holiday gifts from local businesses near your office. Chocolate and flower shops or bakeries can all prepare beautiful arrangements that are more personal.
• Give employees bonuses by way of gift cards to local businesses. Do you know that John loves to take his wife to the Italian restaurant on Main Street for their anniversary every year? Make sure the next one is on you.
• Find out if a small business near you has altered its service offering for the pandemic. Perhaps a local cleaning company in town now performs sanitizing services.
• Call around for better prices. Maybe you’ve always used a national chain for pest management services. Now is the perfect time to expand your horizons and find a new vendor. Many are offering special promotions and no contracts to make up for lost sales due to Covid-19.
Buying from small businesses is the simplest way to contribute to your local economy, give back to the members of your community, and promote sustainable practices all at once. The outcome is a stronger, more resilient community that you’re proud to be part of. The next time you go to your local stationery store or farmers market, you’ll know exactly what you’re paying for. You could be helping your neighbor get a job, supporting a nonprofit or making someone’s day simply by buying a loaf of bread.