What Does It Really Mean to Shop Locally?

What Does It Really Mean to Shop Locally?


When you shop at independent or local-to-you businesses, more money is kept within your community because local businesses often use or buy from local service providers, farms, and companies. Buying locally helps grow other businesses as well as your region’s tax base.

“Shop Local!” is a cry heard from green-minded folks during all seasons… But what does “shopping locally” mean, exactly?

If Target is three miles from my house, does that mean I’m shopping locally? What about my holiday meal? Does buying from my local supermarket count as being “local?” And, probably the biggest question during these tough economic times… WHY should I shop locally when I can get a product cheaper at a chain retailer?

Well, the reason for the “local” movement can really be summarized in four simple phrases…

Shop Small | Think INDEPENDENT businesses here. Boutique or consignment clothing stores, toy stores, gift shops, hardware stores, salons/spas, restaurants, and sports equipment stores are just a few examples of owner-run businesses where you can find great gifts.

Maybe you don’t live in a metro area with many options, in which case, local craft fairs and Etsy are perfect places to look for something special. To use Etsy, simply do a search for sellers in your area. I once found a soap maker in my town who made the most beautifully-scented body products inspired by local attractions. A double local win!

Spend Locally | Where do your dollars go when you spend them? According to American Independent Business Alliance (AIBA), there is something called the “Multiplier Effect” that doesn’t get mentioned enough in the Shop Local movement: “the multiplier effect is the boost to your local economy that results from locally-owned independent businesses, owners, and employees spending business revenue within the region.” In a number of studies illustrated on AIBA’s site, a proven 48% return to the community occurs when you spend locally, versus a 13.6% return when shopping chain retail.

You’ll also enjoy a higher quality product in most cases when supporting your local small businesses. Products from overseas are often cheap for a reason; they skimp on quality…and often, on humane working conditions.

Eat Locally | Don’t underestimate the amount of dollars spent on food, beverages, and restaurant visits during the holidays. Those dollars can be viewed as an investment in your community! Investigate local butchers, shop your farmer’s market, check for LOCAL signs in larger grocery stores, support small wine and liquor stores, and frequent independent restaurants. An impressive 65.4% returns to your community when you eat at a local restaurant versus a chain.

Enjoy Locally | Think like a tourist. If you were vacationing in your town, what would you seek out? Check with your Chamber of Commerce for holiday activities, consult school and community calendars, and read up on events hosted by local clubs, the library, or civic organizations.

Keeping these basics in mind throughout the year will guarantee you’re doing your part to support your community!