Buy local is no baloney

Val Stadick

Minot

Rob Port’s recent column titled “‘Buy Local’ is Baloney,” raised many good points-albeit many false generalizations–a prime example being the very title of the column.

The formula for each local transaction is complicated–in particular large transactions that involve spending more for local contracts to the city as opposed to spending less and keeping our tax dollars lower. For instance–how much of that money is actually going to stay in the local economy and be siphoned around to other businesses and services? There are percentages and complicated models (and the concerns of favoritism and nepotism) and so many miniscule and larger considerations when the city makes their decisions to buy local at a higher rate–just as there are many repercussions from those decisions to be made when consumers decide to stop shopping local because someone said it was “Baloney.”

First of all, let’s dispel many myths about shop local:

1. Shopping local does not always mean more expensive. The Amazon customer product return rate is 5-15% and as high as 25% for clothing. My local business return rate is less than 1% and I am sure that the return rate of the local boutiques is also quite low. Those returns always add cost–if not in cash, in time.

There are local options that save money–frequent buyer clubs, coupons, specials, used products, damaged products marked down, end of season sales, and sometimes the price is just lower. And then there are always the suppliers/manufacturers that won’t let on-line retail cut the costs of their products to shut out the small business retailer–they insist on an even playing field for their wholesale customers.

2. Small, local business IS the biggest employer in the nation – and most likely in the city of Minot. Where does a community go, how far do they fall when their biggest employer fails?

3. Local merchants don’t want to “guilt” anyone out of making the right business or shopping choice. Most local business owners are grateful for every customer that walks in the door. We believe in free choice probably more than anyone else in the world. This is why we went into business for ourselves and this is also why we want to encourage people to shop local – so that consumers can retain that choice. If everyone did business on-line, there would be no choices left in the world. All local retail, banking, insurance and other business would close and would only exist in larger cities–with call and fulfillment centers robotically shipping out packages and distributing contracts to all the Jane and John Does of this world.

Local merchants run their business on thin margins–local merchants live, work, provide jobs and pay taxes here and want what’s best for their community. We provide good jobs and sales tax revenues and recirculate profits into our community.

In essence – that shopping local message is not “baloney.” This is how our city stays employed, viable and connected with our neighbors. This is how our city provides streets and sidewalks and community. Small business is also where people in our community run into real friends (not Facebook friends) and keep the art of conversation and the magic of any community alive.

It is not guilt that drives people to shop local first but, I believe, an awakening of consciousness that says bigger is not always better and cheaper is not always smarter and there are hidden costs to our shopping decisions. Yes, choice is good–especially for the community that remains abundant in the entrepreneurial spirit and who support those small business owners who chose to take a chance on that community and believe in providing even more choices.

If you “pursue the best choices for yourself,” Rob Port states, “that is the best sort of economy we can have.” We believe that too. This is why there are people who choose to shop local — they value something more and something greater and they also know that even if they save a little money on-line (not always the case) they miss so much more off-line.

As a small business owner and a founding member of Local 1st Minot I am not “guilting” – I am “encouraging” you with facts (and not baloney) to shift more of your shopping this year to local small business. There is not one person in our community that shopping local does not directly or indirectly impact in a positive manner–not even Rob Port.

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