Small businesses are a valuable part of every community. They provide opportunities for entrepreneurship, creativity, and growth in our very own neighborhoods.
Shopping at your closest brand-name grocery store or using Amazon for all your purchases may be the easier option. But you can just as easily support local businesses that are working hard to compete with bigger chain stores.
Here's how to make a difference.
7 Benefits of Spending Locally
Why shop local when you can shop global? Because shopping local benefits your community in ways you might not realize.
1. Access to Locally Produced and Made Goods
Patronizing one local business has a chain effect on other businesses. Your favorite neighborhood restaurant is more likely to buy from nearby farms. Local clothing boutiques often sell products from local designers and artists.
2. Keeps Money in Your Community
When you grab a latte at your local coffee shop, more of the money you spend stays in your community than if you bought that same drink at a Starbucks, Duncan, or Tim Horton’s. In fact, studies show that for every $100 spent at a local business, $73 dollars remain in that community.
For every $100 spent at a local business, $73 dollars remain in that community.
3. Smaller Carbon Footprint
Small businesses often have a smaller environmental impact. Making purchases close to home equates to less packaging waste and fewer carbon dioxide emissions.
4. Better Quality Products
Yes, you can sometimes find products for less online, but you get what you pay for. When you spend locally, you can see and touch what you’re getting. You can also consult sales staff to make sure you’re getting the best product or service for your needs.
When you buy close to home, you buy from your friends and neighbors.
5. Tastier and Healthier Food
When you’re tired of grocery store produce going bad before you can eat it, shopping local can help. If you can’t grow your own, fresh, seasonal produce (and meat) from your local farmer’s market or corner store is the next best thing. You’ll end up with a more interesting and healthy diet (so you can use the money in your retirement account for traveling instead of healthcare).
If you’re not sure where to find something locally, search online using your zip code.
6. Unique Products
Want to give a gift no one else will think of? Want to craft a unique style for yourself or your home? Buying from local retailers ensures you get one-of-a-kind merchandise.
7. Boost Community Engagement
When you buy close to home, you buy from your friends and neighbors. You build relationships with people who share your space, and those relationships carry over to other areas of your life.
4 Ways to Support Local Businesses
Supporting local businesses isn’t hard, but if you’re used to hitting up big shopping centers, you might be wondering if it’s even possible to shop local and still get what you need when you need it. The answer is yes, and here’s how to do it:
1. Shop Small
Start by creating a mental list of what you shop for every day at big-name stores (like Walmart, Target, or Amazon). Chances are, with a little research or a drive around town, you can find a local option for almost everything on that list.
Think mom and pop hardware stores and neighborhood pharmacies. Farmer’s markets and boutique clothing shops. These stores may have lower inventory than big box competitors, but they’re often more than willing to special order what you need if they don’t have it on the spot.
With a little research, you can find a local option for most everything on your list.
Even if it's just a few items here and there, checking things off by shopping small is a lot easier than you may think. If you’re not sure where to find something locally, search online using your zip code.
2. Go Virtual
To survive the pandemic, savvy small businesses added support for online shopping with options for delivery or curbside pickup and you’ll have a hard time finding one that hasn’t continued that service indefinitely.
Not only can you buy products online, but local businesses may offer virtual services as well. Your local gyms, yoga studios, wineries, breweries, and theaters — through tools like Instagram or Facebook live videos — can host live workouts, shows, or tastings. Often times you can join these live videos for free or on a donation basis.
Not only can you buy products online, but local businesses may offer virtual services as well.
You may also be able to find their products online through sites like eBay or Facebook Marketplace. Simply filter by your zip code to find local sellers. Many small retailers — especially vintage shops — do all of their business through Instagram.
You can even refer people who live out of state to your local business’s website or event. That local business will then receive money and support from all over.
You can even refer people who live out of state to your local business’s website or event.
3. Order Delivery
Ordering delivery from your favorite restaurants is just as great as eating out. Don’t forget to tip!
You can also use third-party apps for food delivery — like Grub Hub, Door Dash, Uber Eats, or Slice. You are still supporting your local businesses through these apps and you'll occasionally get lucky with coupons or faster delivery times.
As always, takeout is an option. Plan a movie night in and go grab your favorite food from your local restaurant before pressing play.
Plan a movie night in and go grab your favorite food from your local restaurant before pressing play.
4. Buy Gifts for Yourself and Others
Sending your friends and family a gift card for a local business will give them a head start to shop small. And if it's someone's birthday, you're checking two items off your list. Odds are, they’ll end up buying themselves something they wouldn’t have thought of otherwise, adding to their delight and surprise.
Another unique way to shop and promote local businesses is through merchandise or "swag." Buy a tee for yourself or a friend with your favorite shop's logo on it. Buying it supports the business, and wearing it is free advertising for the local business.
How to Support Small Businesses for Free
There are ways you can support your local businesses free of charge. If the business has an online or social media presence — Yelp, Instagram, Facebook, Google — here are some ways to support them without spending a dime:
- Write a positive review. Positive reviews entice others in the community to try out the local businesses. Upload some pictures too to increase their engagement.
- Follow social media accounts and share posts. Social media is key for small businesses and sharing posts may bring in more business.
- Rate the business. A good rating will entice out-of-towners to try something new and will keep the business in good standing with frequent shoppers.
Word of mouth also goes a long way and is completely free. Refer your friends and family to small businesses where you love to shop.
You'll find that your money goes a lot further when shopping small. Plus, the funds make their way back into your community in different ways — like job growth, environmental support, and charitable efforts. And best of all, shopping local builds a better community for you and those you care about.