Are all small shop purchases necessary?

One of the regular internal debates I have with myself deals with the issues of a consumer driven economy. I’m personally trying to reduce my consumption of unnecessary goods, and changing my ideas about what is necessary. This alone, can be a daunting task. Having been born well after WWII, during an era of economic prosperity, society wants us to believe that more, or bigger, is better. But many of us are realizing, that this is not true.

I have good days and bad days when carrying on this internal debate. Mostly good days – I like my, small by American standards but almost too big for us, home. I don’t mind that my car is about 16 years old, and that our new car is what most consider an economy car. I hate clothing shopping, and don’t mind checking second hand stores when I need some “new” clothes. My bad days often happen on days that I spend more money than I’m comfortable with – even if all the purchases are deemed necessary.

My struggle comes from the fact that I also own a retail shop. My lively hood depends on people doing the very thing I struggle with…spending money on goods that are not always necessary.

One of the reasons I opened Darn Yarn Needles and Thread (DYNT) was that I wanted to offer better options to crafters. I specialize in American made yarns and supplies. I also look for fairly traded items, because things like silk just don’t really grow stateside. When possible, I also try and find organic or sustainable products. And believe it or not, I carry a few lines that fit all three (There are a number of American ranchers out there who pride themselves on maintaining their ranch just as their ancestors did. This often includes safer, organic, and sustainable methods. )!

While I am happy with my supply choices and the variety and types of products I can offer, I still need customers. And that requires marketing and explaining why people should purchaes my products over someone else’s. You are probably familiar with the “shop small” or “buy local” campaigns. I agree wholeheartedly and am trying to cut out most of my big box store spending in 2014. But that’s me, what about my customers? I spend a lot of time explaining why specialty shops and smaller stores, like mine, can be superior to big box stores. And even though some see shopping local as a push towards a more sustainable economy, it still, on occasion, feels like I’m pushing consumerism.

Info graphics and arguments pro shopping local make me wonder, are my seemingly unnecessary or frivolous purchases necessary to someone else? Meaning, I know that when I buy my dog food at the local pet supply shop, I’m supporting those small business owners. This is also true when I purchase that pair of earrings I don’t really need from the independent jeweler or olive oil at a specialty shop. So why is it so hard to remember that shopping local almost always supports someone I already know, or could meet, face to face? Or to remember that my shop falls into those categories too?