Today's "buy local" movement persists in spite of the popularity of online shopping hubs. While it's convenient to order everything including the kitchen sink from your computer or phone, there are still some advantages to visiting local mom-and-pop shops in person. While you may associate online shopping with cyber sales and competitive pricing, there are also savings to be had when patronizing small businesses. Buying local not only keeps money in the community; it can also yield other surprising benefits not available online or in big-box stores.
Short of matching a competitor's coupon, big-box stores and online retailers typically don't negotiate prices with customers. Local businesses may be more receptive to negotiation, especially if inventory has been sitting around for too long, because the chain of command is condensed -- you may even end up haggling directly with the owner. Of course, there's a fine line between negotiating a good price and bending the goodwill of a neighborhood store, so pick your battles wisely in order to effectively haggle.
Local businesses that sell handmade goods typically gain an advantage over other retailers by cutting out the middleman. Items like quilts, candles, furniture, and artwork are often better quality for the price. From consignment shops to boutiques, local shops give you the chance to not only find great products at lower prices but also support local artisans.
It's not uncommon for returning customers to get discounts or even free products from local businesses. The neighborhood baker might throw in a few extra danishes (gotta love the baker's dozen) or the local mechanic might top off your oil for free while replacing a part. Local businesses tend to be more plugged into the community, because they rely directly on relationships with other local businesses and organizations. So even if they're not prone to doling out free products, they might offer insider tips and referrals.
Many shoppers think "local" and "organic" translate to "expensive," and assume farmers markets are only for well-heeled foodies. But increasing competition has made buying local food affordable -- and even cheaper than shopping at supermarkets in some cases. Studies have shown that prices at farmers markets across the nation were cheaper than or equal to their grocery store counterparts' in recent years. Local produce is also usually fresher and more nutritious, considering it doesn't have to be transported hundreds of miles to sit on a supermarket shelf for a few days.
If you're looking to discover unique yet inexpensive clothing, rare vintage goods, or downright bizarre home goods you never knew existed, look no further than a local thrift store. Sure, you could find similar products online, but you might not even think to search for the kinds of things encountered at thrift stores -- and you'd have to pay for shipping. Shopping in a bricks-and-mortar thrift store also lets you check out products in person instead of relying on a photo. If you're lucky you'll discover cheap, one-of-a-kind goods.
Food-buying clubs, or food-related co-ops, are community organizations in which members pool money to buy food in bulk from local vendors at cheaper, wholesale prices. Buying clubs can be big or small and comprise friends or neighbors. A coordinator typically handles the purchasing, and then food is distributed equally or as ordered by members. (Some communities also have co-op grocery stores, which typically are collectively owned by members who pay fees.) Cooperative food buying does require a bit more personal investment in the form of time and energy, but you can ultimately save money through local, bulk purchases.
More money stays in your community and circulates faster among your neighbors when you buy local. This principle is called "velocity," and the idea is that buying local gives more people access to money in a shorter amount of time. For example, local businesses are more likely to quickly invest profits back into the community to pay for things like advertising, supplies, and upkeep. You might not immediately realize the benefits of buying local, but over time, you'll benefit from strong local businesses whose tax dollars go toward better schools and public services in your neighborhood.
American Express usually incentivizes its cardholders to shop locally on the day after Black Friday with its Small Business Saturday event. Last year, American Express extended the program through Dec. 31, offering double points to cardholders who shopped locally. The Small Business Saturday event typically encompasses a variety of American Express cards, including Delta SkyMiles, Hilton HHonors, and Blue Cash cards. If the company continues the expanded program in 2017, cardholders should be sure to register for the event so they can earn double points.
It's a nightmare dealing with the customer service departments of some major corporations. Sometimes getting a simple refund requires trudging through a web of red tape. Employees of local businesses tend to be more familiar with company operations; they aren't scattered around the world in countless corporate offices and might even know the owner on a first-name basis. Being able to easily communicate with a business is valuable. The accessibility of local businesses could end up saving you time, money, and headaches.
Have you ever gone to a big-box store to buy a couple of items only to leave with a cartload of stuff you don't need? Big retailers use many tricks to encourage spending. Many of these are predicated on the fact that big-box stores can house a wide array of products, leaving shoppers more susceptible to impulse buys. Local businesses tend to offer a more focused selection and typically don't invest as much energy trying to influence customers. Shopping the smaller, less tricky aisles of local businesses can help you make sound buying decisions.