Picture this. It’s a sunny autumn weekend and you’re taking the kids apple-picking or to a corn maze at a local farm. Or you’re headed to the beach for an invigorating walk. Perhaps you’re on your way to visit with a friend who moved to a distant suburb. Exiting the highway, a scenic route brings you through picturesque town centers and past local historic homes. The view includes unique, beautifully constructed buildings, charming antique shops and sprawling, well-kept homes.
It feels good, right? Kind of restores your soul a bit?
The importance of a healthy and vibrant downtown
Back to our current reality. Sadly, the demise of the local downtown is a looming threat. While online shopping can be quick and convenient, it poses significant challenges to the health of local businesses. Preserving our unique town centers helps to keep our local economies strong — raising property values, providing employment and strengthening community pride. To retain vibrant downtowns, we need to identify the unique value proposition offered by independent businesses — and capitalize on it.
Across the US, community boards are promoting smart growth districts, which revitalize downtowns, retaining historic charm and creating walkability through mixed use parcels that include living, commercial and entertainment areas. National movements like Small Business Saturday and regional groups promote events to encourage patronage of independent small businesses, which contribute to the local character of our region.
The Multiplier Effect: Small but mighty
Beyond the feel-good factor of a bustling downtown showcasing unique and appealing businesses, there are practical reasons to prioritize independently-owned businesses for the health of our local economies.
Coined the multiplier effect, studies show that compared with franchises and chain stores, independent locally-owned businesses recirculate a far greater percentage of revenue locally — more than triple that of chain retailers.
And, as highlighted in stories on Boston news magazine Chonicle, like begets like. In several struggling communities, new creative eateries have invigorated a neighborhood, attracting new shops, other restaurants and independent businesses. The thriving downtowns are booming and real estate values have increased dramatically.
Do unto others
So how can you help keep your town’s economy strong? As championed by Reading, MA local advocate Shelly Shops Local, simply try shopping local first. Work to build a habit like the 30 day Shop Local Challenge, patronizing at least one locally-based business daily for 30 days.
Independent local businesses are owned by your neighbors, who advertise in the programs for high school plays, donate to youth sports leagues, sponsor family-centric community events and support PTOs, causes and non-profits, donating a percentage of earnings through shop for a cause events. Time to pay it forward.
Beyond being the right thing to do, shopping local offers additional benefits:
- Exercise and fresh air … park once and walk a block or two to complete your errands
- Relish an impromptu conversation with a shopkeeper or another customer
- Revel in a multi-sensory shopping experience – actually touch products
- Reward your eyes with a beneficial break from screen time
- Free gift wrap and customer service assistance selecting your items
- Try before you buy! A dressing room to try on your selections
- Participate or partner for special in-store events and nonprofit fundraisers
- Serendipity of discovering a needed service business like a cobbler, tailor or locksmith
Shop small beyond just Small Business Saturday. If you need help marketing your business, contact Online Amplify (locally based and independently owned) for a free online assessment.