Once upon a time I had a beautiful boutique in a Northwest suburb which I shall not name. Rhymes with Schmayslake. And in that time I owned my beautiful store, very few local people shopped there. Yes, they would go to the mall or to Kohls or some other big box retailer so I knew they were spending their money somewhere. I had some great clients that came from other suburbs but there just weren’t enough.
I participated in fashion shows to support local churches and donated hours and hours of time, free labor and offered discounted merchandise. During said fashion shows I would over hear “Oh, we’ll go to the mall, I saw something like that at Macy’s”, or at some other store. Why shop local when you can go big box or big department store chain with the same crap that everyone else carries?
Eventually I closed my doors. During my going out of business sale I can’t tell you how many people I wanted to slap the living shit out of when they told me how sad they were I was closing; how the town needed retailers like me. Well, WHERE IN THE F-ING NAME OF GOD HAVE YOU BEEN THE PAST SIX YEARS??????? Most of the people complaining were total strangers. They had never spent a nickel and were now bottom feeding off of my deeply discounted merchandise. Shop local?? pffffffffft.
I am also a sales rep and during the past 13 years I have seen many of the boutiques and shops I sell to close for the same reasons. Local people don’t shop local. Everyone whines about how much they would love to have a “cute little downtown” right in their area but then go shopping everywhere but. I’ve seen amazing downtown areas in great towns nearly roll up the sidewalks with store closings. Before the economy tanked in 2008.
So what to do? Today I was researching some stores and I came across a site promoting something called the 350 project. I was really struck by the simplicity of the idea but the complexity of getting people to follow it.
This project suggests selecting three local businesses/retailers that you would miss it they were gone. Go into the stores and check them out; make a purchase for someone to brighten up their day. Your purchase not only make you or the recipient happy, the store owner appreciates your business.
If half of all employed people in the US chose three stores and in a months time spent $50 in each one, that would generate $42 Billion (yep, billion) in revenues. For every $100 spent in independently owned stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures. At a national chain? Only $43. On-line? ZERO. (www.the350project.net)
So often lately when I call my customers they tell me how afraid they are that they are going to have to close their doors. Their numbers are down; they aren’t able to order or if they are, they are running up their credit cards to pay for inventory.
It may be unrealistic to spend $150 a month with local retailers so how about half of that? Everywhere I go I see people eating out. And not alway at inexpensive places. I’d rather buy a gift for someone than spend $30 on an ala carte crabcake the size of a hockey puck any day. Instead of $4 coffee everyday how about a little gift for someone, or treat yourself to something that will last a little longer than a latte.
People have dreams of store ownership. They want something to call their own; to make their own special haven for people to shop. They heard the call of people screaming for their downtowns to be built up but then are not supported by those same people. I loved my store, I was really proud. I had dreams of expansion and growth, only to be disappointed by the lack of support I experienced by the local shoppers. So many retailers have a dream. It’s an expensive dream that takes our life’s blood sometimes to keep it going.
So why not start stopping into that cute little shop you’ve walked or driven by a hundred times? And then tell your friends? And they’ll tell two friends and so on and so on. And if you can’t do that, don’t walk in their store when they are going out of business and complain they are closing. You may get bitch slapped. And it will be well deserved.
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