Buying Local – A Bright Idea
Let’s talk about buying local.
Sure, this may not seem like it has anything to do with lighting, on the face of it. But at the risk of leaving my area of expertise (at least the one I claim some knowledge in) the concept of buying local can be illuminating.
None of us needs a business degree from Harvard to understand that spending our money with locally owned companies is probably good for our local Central Iowa economy. Yet I admit – as a local businessperson, my personal stake in this issue may cloud my opinion. So I decided to do what all of us do when we want to know more about something that we think we know a lot about already, but aren’t sure.
I googled it.
Here is what I found.
Of the major and not so major studies done over the past 10 years, one thing is clear – buying local is not just some sort of feel-good idea invented by an ad agency to boost sales. Buying local has a profound economic impact on the towns and cities where it is practiced by residents. In fact, more and more research strongly indicates that buying local is literally the life’s blood of our communities – it keeps our communities alive.
One study, by the New Economics Foundation, a London think-tank, found that when people purchase produce at a local farmer’s market vs. a chain supermarket, up to twice the money stays in the community. “That means those purchases are twice as efficient in terms of keeping the local economy alive,” says author and NEF researcher David Boyle.
Boyle compares the money we spend to blood – “our life’s blood” as I said earlier. When we buy from big box and on-line retailers vs. locally owned Central Iowa businesses and suppliers, that “blood” flows out, and away, from our Des Moines community.
That means we run the risk of bleeding to death – one dollar at a time, one transaction at a time – until there is nothing left, what researchers call “ghost towns” or “clone towns,” in which almost all the businesses are national franchises and big box stores.
Can we imagine what this would look like? Yes – we’re already seeing in, on city blocks and entire mile-long stretches of businesses throughout Des Moines.
So what about the perceived higher cost of local goods and services, to shoppers?
If I had a nickel…lol.
First, let’s look at the big picture.
Any difference in the purchase price of merchandise we buy from local businesses vs. big box stores, disappears when we look at the increase in local employment, plus the relationships that grow when people buy from people they know. We know who we’re buying from therefore we know what we’re getting – there’s name and a face that is now accountable to us for what we just purchased. If it doesn’t work, if it tastes bad, if it fails to live up to our expectations, we go straight to the source, who almost always will deal with it immediately, to our complete satisfaction. Good luck getting that with a big box store.
On behalf of our company, Adventure Lighting, I can look our customers in the eye without blinking and tell them point-blank and categorically that we are not only cost-competitive with the big box stores, but we blow them out of the water on quality, knowledge, service and resources. We have over 100,000 lights in our warehouse, and I know for an absolute fact that employees at big box stores all over town send customers to us, because they ain’t got it and know we do.
Buying local means our money flows through our community – faster and in more hands, more often. Money spent locally has a greater impact on everyone than money spent in big box stores – it supports local charities and civic projects. It sends our kids to college, builds new homes, keeps our neighbors and friends and family members employed. It keeps our core values, our way of life, alive.
So thank you for buying local. It may not have a thing to do with lighting, but it sure has everything to do with creating a brighter future – for all of us.
Jack Huff, along with his son Brian and wife Sue, owns and manages Adventure Lighting in Des Moines, Iowa. For more information, go to www.adventurelighting.com