Shopping at local verses chain stores

For those who aren’t aware, this coming Saturday, Nov. 30, is officially known as “Small Business Saturday.”

Back in 2010 the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) declared Small Business Saturday (SBS) as the Saturday after Black Friday. The following year the U.S. Senate recognized SBS and thousands of people across the nation made a purposeful attempt to “Shop Small” on this day.

The Shop Small campaign is certainly a response to the fact that currently in the U.S., two or three corporations lead almost every retail sector, and the top 10 retail corporations capture nearly one out of every four dollars spent in U.S. stores.

It’s my opinion we should all Shop Small every day. At least every chance we can.

There’s a lot of research concerning the real value of shopping locally verses the “big box” stores or franchise chains. The research goes far beyond simply buying American or supporting local jobs.

Spending in local stores generates significantly more income for a community than spending in a chain store. In numerous studies spending in local stores generates three times the local growth.

That means that for every $100 spent in a local store, $45 stays in the community, as opposed to chain stores where only $15 stays. Locally owned franchise stores are usually better for the local economy than chain stores, but often not as good as local, independent stores.

At this point I must admit there certainly are benefits to chain stores. Price, selection, customer expansion and market exposure are a few. These, however, must be balanced against the potential negatives of predatory pricing, job quality and the manipulation of suppliers, tax policy, zoning and transportation planning.

It’s true chain stores can sometimes help attract other businesses to an area. Additionally, chain stores can push local retailers to improve their game in both quality and service. I certainly believe a local, independent store should be competitive with a chain in the commitment to customer needs and desires.

For the record, I’m not specifically “anti-chain-store.” I have shopped in them before and will probably do so in the future. At the risk of sounding prejudiced, “some of my best friends” own franchised stores.

But we should all have concerns about chain stores in our community. We should expect chain stores to give back to the neighborhoods where they’re located. More importantly, we should make sure we do not become so homogenized that we lose our own unique, community identity. If all we have is chain and franchise stores, we will look like every place in the U.S., and we lose our culture. And that would be a great loss.

That reminds me of a joke. What’s the difference between yogurt and a community with only chain stores? Yogurt has an active culture.

So think big; shop small; shop local. By the way, downtown stores are local stores.

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Cecil Childress is general manager of the Blennerhassett Hotel and chairman of Downtown PKB. He can be contacted