The holiday season offers plenty of reminders about why it pays to shop locally. One of the most persuasive is the economic boost communities get from locally owned independent businesses.
Small Business Saturday highlights benefits for both businesses and consumers.
Multiple studies show that these small businesses reinvest in the local economy at a higher rate than chains do. For every $100 spent at one of these businesses, for example, $68 stays in the community, according to Amy Hartzler, director of communications for the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, a nonprofit that advocates building strong local economies. That’s more than twice the amount chains reinvest.
“There’s a direct correlation between supporting local independent businesses and having your dollars recirculate to create a multiplier effect,” Hartzler said.
Small Business Saturday, which follows Thanksgiving and Black Friday, encourages shoppers to patronize small businesses and invest in their local communities.
Here are five ways consumers and small businesses can benefit from shopping locally this holiday season and throughout the year.
- Create More Local Jobs
Local businesses create the majority of economic growth, employing about 77 million Americans and improving stability in communities, according to Hartzler. “When we shop locally, more of our money stays local, so it has a direct positive impact on creating more jobs,” she said.
Independent businesses create about two-thirds of private sector jobs, according to the alliance. Every $10 million of spending at a local business creates 57 jobs, whereas the same spending at Amazon creates 14 jobs at the mega business, the organization reports.
And local business owners tend to hire people who represent the demographics of the surrounding community, including historically underserved populations, Hartzler added. This contributes particularly to community stability, considering that 40 percent of small businesses are in low-income communities, reports the Association for Enterprise Opportunity.
- Enhance Diversity
Local businesses add to the diversity of products and services available to a community. Whereas chain stores often stock shelves that reflect national demands, a local sporting goods store is more likely to focus on community interests, offering apparel in local school colors, for example.
“Often local stuff is just way more interesting,” Hartzler said.
Products from local artisans or producers allow consumers to share the special culture or characteristics of a local area with friends and family around the globe. And locally made products typically are no more expensive than other goods, she said.
Vibrant local business communities also make neighborhoods more interesting, Hartzler added. This tends to attract new residents and encourages growth.
- Strengthen Local Networks
Shopping at small businesses provides access to local expertise about what products and services work best in your geographic area. For example, a local garden shop can tell you which type of tomato grows best in your climate. You can also get more personalized service by establishing a relationship with the owner as well as quicker resolution to customer service issues.
Thriving local businesses often hire other small businesses to perform support tasks or provide raw materials and resources. This bolsters networks that can promote further growth, advocating for business-friendly policies, for example, or generating demand for more services, such as co-working spaces and local deliveries.
“It becomes an ecosystem of businesses that support each other,” Hartzler said.
- Boost Environmental Sustainability
Shopping locally is also good for the environment. Consumers who walk to local town centers reduce their use of cars and buses. Similarly, buying from small businesses that source local products can reduce the environmental impact that national chains impose in their transportation of goods, Hartzler said.
Shopping at local businesses also helps to create a relationship-based economy, she added, whereby restaurants may work together to create demand for local ingredients, and consumers and small-business owners know each other.
Local business owners tend to be more civic-minded, she added, whether they’re sponsoring local baseball teams or volunteering with local charities.
“As entrepreneurship grows, you see people who are more deeply committed to their communities showing up in more ways than just running a business,” Hartzler said.
- Increase Real Estate Values
Neighborhoods served by successful small businesses see home values increase 50 percent on average, according to the alliance. “If your neighborhood is full of vibrant local businesses, then the value of your neighborhood will increase as it becomes more desirable,” Hartzler said.
As real estate prices grow, communities can attract new investments to spur continued economic growth. This is especially important in low-income neighborhoods, where small businesses may also have a harder time obtaining loans and resources.
An influx of new residents increases local tax revenue, which can be used to invest in infrastructure such as schools, public safety departments, libraries and parks that strengthen communities and drive future growth.
Small Business Saturday highlights benefits for both businesses and consumers. But it’s hard to overestimate the positive impacts of shopping locally — not just during the holidays but also throughout the year.