We’re starting to see something of a “demise of the mall” culture. It wasn’t long ago that suburbs everywhere had a selection of large shopping malls, teeming with discount department stores and services. You could buy anything from a winter coat to fancy tablecloths to new dishes or laundry soap… the availability of anything imaginable was endless. But what happened - to me included - was that many of us wound up with basement shelves groaning with deals on detergent and plastic tableware and sunscreen – basically, cheap stuff we didn’t need and lots of it. In 2006 I had enough sunscreen on hand that I couldn’t have used it all even if I had I six arms and a subtropical mailing address. It was simply too much – and mostly low quality goods – shipped in from all corners of the earth just to turn rancid next to my furnace.
The subtle swing back to shopping local or small businesses is interesting and exciting, and it also marks an opportunity for women to empower themselves and others through these transactions. While we are still (thankfully) way off from shopping General Store style like Little House on the Prairie, there is so much available locally in such high quality that you simply don’t need a tonne of it. This means, simply, put, less but better. Why buy a gallon of discount soap that won’t produce suds and smells like a tire fire when there’s a local shop only a Google search away whose products conjure a sweet-smelling meadow and yet manage to destroy dirt like a jackhammer? When it comes to shopping local, the wins don’t end there. To coin a popular shopping phrase, “but wait; there’s more:”
While shopping locally doesn’t mean you have to leave your home (many, many local shopping opportunities exist online either by individual merchants or in communal website shops) it can still be a great experience to take in some “brick and mortar” time. Go and meet the woman who bakes your family’s French style bread, or the sisters who felted your daughter’s first winter hat. The face time can’t be beat, especially in a digital world, and there is nothing like being recognized and greeted by name on subsequent visits. You’ll be first to be heard if there is an issue or you have a special request, because individual merchants will remember and respect you in a way that is reciprocal. You’re building good rapport and it is going to pay off for everyone. Who’s getting the extra special product with the slightly better or touch overfull container? YOU are.
If you could shop in a way that met or exceed your needs, and left the vendor in a good position, why wouldn’t you? I’m betting no one thinks of the anonymous corporate board member and personal benefits when they purchase something online from a giant conglomerate. When you shop local, the families and individuals behind the company name draw direct benefits from your purchase. That means the local cheese shop or pottery store can use the profits from your purchase to keep you happier with return visits and create success for themselves through the growth of their local business. Shopping local and shopping small business is safe and secure and it means you get, yes, but it also means you get to give.
When people create or supply goods locally, to sell in the neighbourhoods where they live, they are putting their reputations and livelihood on the line every single day. Nothing is as important to them – or their business success – than their name and the quality of service they provide to you. This is why reputable, great local merchants and business offer goods and services that they stand behind. You get quality, and you get something done right the first time. No business owner wants to sit behind a group of people at the elementary school holiday concert if the people there are ones they served poorly. Local merchants work hard and charge fairly for the items and services they create and this fuels their good reputations. Word of mouth is powerful, and here’s a great way to use it: If you have something good to say, tell others; if you have something less than stellar to say, tell the BUSINESS.
Shopping locally helps the environment because you’re not travelling all over the city and back looking for just the right item. You can shop online and have it bulk delivered or walk to your downtown core for some storefront shopping action or peruse a local market for artisans and small shop pop-ups. It’s a win/win/win for you, the merchant, and the earth! You’ll leave a smaller footprint on your local environment and come back with quality, local goods.
(Oh; and if that foot that left the print needs new shoes, make sure you shop local.)