The holiday season is upon us and that means lots of shopping for gifts. Sometimes it seems like the easiest and best way to go about procuring all of your holiday gifts is to stop at a large mall that has stores to meet every need and desire of everyone on your list. However, this year try a different plan of attack and shop locally at small businesses instead. There are many upsides to spending your money with small businesses rather than at large retail outlets. Once you experience the benefits of shopping at small businesses, you may never go back to the mall again.
1. Local character and prosperity
Each geographical area is unique, so small businesses can provide a plethora of unique localized gifts. Further, purchase at a small store puts money back into that community. For example, purchasing something from a small shop in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan can allow you to present a gift that not only expresses the unique nature of the UP, it also helps to sustain the economic health of the area as well. Purchasing gifts from local shops while on vacation is a great idea, especially to help sustain smaller communities. It is also a great idea to patronize small businesses in your own hometown. That way, you are helping to support the community in which you live in an additional way. Who would have ever thought that shopping could help support local police and fire departments and schools?
2. Better customer service
In our culture of having multiple choices for every purchase, customer service is still king of the castle. Businesses can live or die by the customer service they provide. According to Buy Local Rogue, local businesses consistently provide better customer service than their big retail counterparts. Small businesses rely on potential customers becoming actual customers and then repeat customers. The best way to accomplish that goal is to provide superior customer service. Since larger stores survive on the volume of people they see, losing some customers because of poor customer service is no big deal. Local businesses tend to hire people with a high level of expertise in order to provide their customers with the best knowledge they can. Many small shops offer hands-on experiences that larger stores and online retailers do not.
3. Small businesses rely on increased traffic
Even small businesses that do fairly well throughout the first part of the year depend heavily on holiday shopping revenue to survive. Many businesses rely on the extra revenue they receive during the holiday shopping season to make sure a business is profitable all year long. Generally small businesses increase their staff for the holiday season, which increases their operating costs. Thus, it is vitally important that they actually receive the anticipated increase in foot traffic.
4. Product diversity and unique products
Most small businesses choose the products they sell based more on their own interests and needs and the needs of their customers rather than a national sales plan. This ideology creates a more unique and broadly-based product line. Another added benefit to having a wide variety of unique items is it eliminates the need for comparison shopping. Too often customers have either missed out completely on a product in an attempt to find it slightly cheaper elsewhere or spent way too much on something because of neglecting to check another store. Choosing to spend money at a small business eliminates that hassle and the consumer usually ends up with a better product in the end anyway.
5. Reduced environmental impact
Everyone seems to be looking for ways to be more ecologically conscious. Patronizing small businesses is actually better for the environment than shopping at large retail stores. Since stores are localized, they don’t have a great need for extensive delivery service and therefore don’t contribute to increased street traffic. That results in less sprawl, congestion, pollution, and loss of natural habitats. They also don’t need to use larger modes of transportation such as large delivery trucks, trains, or airplanes that can cause harmful emissions to be expelled into the air. Some small businesses can also use local resources to create products to further help in the sustenance of the environment.
6. Competition and diversity leads to more choices
The best way to guarantee innovation and sustained lower prices is for small businesses to compete with each other. When small businesses are active in the marketplace, there are automatically more choices.
7. Local business owners give back to the community
Small business owners know how important their community is to their survival, so they tend to give back to the community any way they can. Not only do their stores provide character to any town or city, they have a tendency to lend a helping hand whenever they can. They take active strides to build and strengthen their relationships with other businesses located in the community as well as the people who live there and civic leaders. Some local businesses will also foster relationships with area schools in an effort to offer educational opportunities to local children or even jobs to local teens.
Small businesses are a vital part of a community and its economy. Their contributions are many and they are deserving of our business not only during the holiday season but all year as well. The next time you’re in the market for something new, skip the mall and head to one of your local small businesses instead.