How to Use "Shop Local" to Your Advantage

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by Linda Goin

"How “Shop Local” campaigns can work to a service business's advantage"

You may have heard about “Shop Local” campaigns, but you may have felt that this is a retail deal. Not so – in this article, Linda explains how “Shop Local” campaigns can work to a service business's advantage, too.

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How "Shop Local" Works

If you've heard about "Shop Local" (SL) or "Buy Local"campaigns, you probably understood that local retail businesses were trying to get your attention. The SL campaigns usually point to the advantages that small businesses can provide to a town or even to a city. And, those SL campaigns also point to the disadvantages behind shopping at big Box Stores or chains.

But, the SL campaign goes far beyond this simple effort. To educate people about the importance behind shopping local, studies were conducted that showed the monetary value behind supporting local independent businesses. For instance, this one comparison seems to stick with people:

For every dollar spent locally, 45 cents goes back into the local economy (Civic Economics 2008). On the other hand for every dollar spent in a big box store only 14 cents goes back into the local economy.

So, it might make sense for you to shop local, if you have a local district filled with independent retail establishments. But, how does a SL campaign affect you as a service business? How can a local SL campaign serve independent graphic designers, developers and artists?

The Ideal Shop Local Mentality

The SL campaign was taken to new heights in America by a group called AMIBA (American Independent Business Alliance). According to this organization:

An Independent Business Alliance works to build vital local economies based on independent, locally-owned businesses and help local entrepreneurs to thrive. They frequently play a key role in preventing chain proliferation and other trends from displacing local businesses. IBAs unite locally-owned independent businesses, citizens and community organizations to achieve this goal.

The loss in the paragraph shown above is the mention about local service businesses. But, they do mention those businesses in an article [PDF]. In that article's focus, service businesses are those businesses that local retailers, organizations and citizens should use to keep local dollars in the community.

It's time to consider the real costs to a community that loses its locally-owned business base. Independent local businesses employ an array of supporting services. They hire architects, designers, cabinet shops, sign makers and contractors for construction. Local accountants, insurance brokers, computer consultants, attorneys, advertising agencies help run it. Local retailers and distributors also carry a higher percentage of locally-produced goods than chains, meaning more jobs for local producers.

In addition, a local shop owner might hire a local artisan to develop hand-made merchandise to fill the shop, a local Web designer to build a Web site and a local developer or hosting service to manage that site and to host it. But, do local businesses really know to hire local service businesses, with the proliferation of global access to outsourced services?

In my experience, I've learned that many shop owners do not hire local, as shop owners are concerned with their business and the bottom line...if it saves time and money to find a Web designer who lives in another state, or even in another country, that shop owner may develop a relationship that is counter to the shop local mentality.

When a community of local independent shop owners decide to learn about SL campaigns and what those campaigns can do for local business, they often want to spread the word (and change their own behaviours). IBAs accomplish this focus by promoting public education, by using cooperative purchasing, branding, marketing and resource sharing and by creating a strong and uncompromising voice for local independent businesses.

Linda Goin

Linda GoinLinda Goin carries a B.F.A. in visual communications with a minor in business and marketing, and an M.A. in American History with a minor in the Reformation. While the latter degree doesn't seem to fit with the first two educational experiences, Linda used her 25-year design expertise on site at archaeological digs and in the study of material culture. Now she uses her education and experiences in creating social media environments.

Accolades for her work include fifteen first-place Colorado Press Association awards, numerous fine art and graphic design awards, and interviews about content development with The Wall St. Journal, Chicago Tribune, Psychology Today, and L.A. Times.

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