This article originally appeared in the Henry County Local, a Landmark Paper, 12/18/13.
This is not an article about the over commercialization of the holidays. For one, we all know it’s the case, yet few of us change our habits. No, I recognize that I and probably most of you are going to go nuts this Christmas. I love to give gifts to my family. I like to surprise them with things they wistfully mentioned six months ago, and see the looks on their faces when they open that EXACT thing they wanted. And for me, one of the most important and satisfying things I do is to buy as much as I can locally. Let me tell you why.
Buy Local means several things, depending on how orthodox you wish to be. The easiest approach is to look for locally owned purveyors of the goods you’re looking for. The item may be made in Pakistan, but the local retailer, who is a member of the community, with employees that are members of the community, who supports the local charities and boosters, and who NEEDS the business, is the beneficiary of your dollars. I like to take it a step further when I can, and not only buy from locally owned retailers, but also seek out locally produced products and services. I bank at a local bank. I buy honey, beef, milk, flour, meal, and fruit grown locally, processed locally, and sold by a locally owned retailer. My accountant is local. All of this is possible, with a little effort and caring.
The fact is, the large national chains don’t need your help. They can raise money at preferred rates, get corporate subsidies, tax loopholes for property taxes, income taxes, and payroll taxes, have the benefit of millions in lobbyists and marketing budgets, and the advantage of customers all over the world. Your local business- service, retail, or restaurant- has none of those things. They need every dollar that walks through the door, they need YOU. A Big Box Chain won’t even notice if you don’t shop there for the next two weeks. Your local restaurants and shops and service providers will.
We are fortunate in our corner of the world that we have several organizations devoted to promoting local and small business. Almost exactly one year ago, the Louisville Independent Business Alliance conducted an in depth study on the distribution of income between national chains versus local independent businesses. Astonishingly, the study found that for every dollar spent at a national chain, only THIRTEEN POINT SIX CENTS stays in the community in the form of charitable giving, profit and labor, and procurement. That’s right, 13.6 cents. And this data is our own backyard, not some place we can ignore. But get this- for every dollar spent at a local independent business, FIFTY FIVE POINT TWO CENTS stays in the community in the forms listed above. Any way you look at that math, it is clear- more than half stays in the community from buying local, and only an eighth from national chains.
The choice is pretty clear. We, as a community, are better off when we buy local. We give up less and get back more from supporting our friends and neighbors. This really is common sense, and good old time wisdom, but we seem to forget it in our mad rush for holiday goodies. There are a lot ways to buy local. Our own Henry County Chamber of Commerce has a gift certificate program to be used at local shops. Buy your holiday turkey or roast from a local farmer. Local eggs, honey, and canned items are available year round. Services, products, retailers, and goods made locally (some of them world class) are produced and available right here, at a myriad of places, within fifty miles. I plan on visiting as many as I can and I hope you do too this Christmas.
Lance Minnis is Vice President of Commonwealth Financial Advisors, LLC a Registered Investment Advisor. All opinions are his and do not constitute financial or investment advice.