If you want local shops, you have to shop at local shops.

Recently I heard the news that a local specialty shop would be closing it’s doors at the end of August. This news hit me hard. This shop was a specialty shop, in the same town where my shop is located, and it’s a shop that my husband and I have supported for a number of years.

There are a number of reasons for their decision to close.  All of them, as a small retail shop owner, I understand.  Many of them have to do with personal decisions based on where they are in the journey of life.    However, there is one factor that we, as consumers, have control over – consider your shopping habits and shop local whenever possible.  Not when it’s convenient, not at the holidays, not just when on vacation.  Shop local every time you can.

By “every time you can”, I mean just that.  I realize that depending on where you live, or what you’re shopping for, the local option might not even exist.  I can’t think of an independent local TV store, but I can think of a local independent book store.  Vitamins?  I can name a local independent shop, a national chain, and a franchise all within my shopping radius.  So my next television will most likely be purchased at a chain store, but I should purchase books and vitamins from the local independent stores.

Buying an XYZ Widget on Amazon and then calling the local specialty store asking for help with the widget because it didn’t come with instructions is an insult to the local shop keeper that you assume will help you.  And lets be honest, most of the shop keepers will help you, because as much as we would like to, we can’t respond with “If you bought it on Amazon, call Amazon”, that’s just bad juju.  If you purchase something on-line and the on-line seller can’t offer you customer service regarding the widget, don’t buy it from that source.   Don’t get me wrong, there are a number of small and independent shops that sell on-line.  These sites usually can offer assistance with their widgets.  Think of it this way, if you can’t call, e-mail, or contact the company with questions about the widget’s usage, warranty, or assembly, you probably shouldn’t purchase a widget from that company.  Duh.  Yet, how many of us still do this?

And why is calling a specialty shop asking for help with an item you didn’t purchase from them an insult?  You are implying that the amount you think you saved is worth more than the knowledge of the person at the local shop, that your time is more valuable than theirs, and that the local shop is overpriced and trying to make a larger profit by overcharging.  I hate to burst your bubble.  Knowledge is valuable, you’re not more important than your neighbor, and many local shops are struggling to pay their monthly bills but still selling items based on MSRP’s and the local prices of similar items at the big box stores.

Mom and Pops.  Brick and mortars.  Independent shops.  Local shops.  Specialty stores.  These are just a few of the monikers that small retail businesses use to describe their business.  Main Street USA is struggling to lure these shops to their neighborhoods, communities are mourning the loss of independent shops that have anchored the community for years, new shop owners are struggling to open their doors due to absurd and overwhelming rules and regulations.

I’ve recently read a number of articles stating that on-line sales are not hurting brick and mortar shops as much as we think they are, that the majority of people still prefer shopping in a physical location.  Based on experience as a small shop owner, I’m not sure I believe these articles.  Especially as we, as a society of consumers, continue to wonder what the solution may be to our dying local economies and vacant Main Streets.  The solution is simple:  If you want local shops, you need to shop at local shops.