The power of shopping small and local.
This month, several online orders come in that were headed to a local mama. She had used Registry.com. That site, like www.babyli.st and others allow you to pick your favorite baby items from any site, like www.clementinestore.com, rather than just one or two sites. I can’t tell you how much these orders mean to a little business like mine.
In a time of terribly slow foot traffic, orders like these keep my business afloat. Coupled with a few nice words and purchases from customers and friends, I feel like I’m part of a wonderful community.
I don’t think I’m revealing a big secret to say that owning a small business is not a huge money maker. Clementine is growing. I’m proud of my success and I see great things for the future. But I can also see a time when I would have to close. The difference between these possible futures is determined when customers, friends, and neighbors choose to do business here.
I smile every time my phone blips with a new order. I receive every order, I pack every order. I sign my name to every little package. I love getting to reorder from my wonderful group of small businesses when their products sell out.
I’m not here to make anyone feel bad about how they shop, but in the conversations I’ve had, I realize a lot of people still don’t think about how they shop.
Amazon and bigger companies make money by lowering their prices to as close to their cost as they can. Yes, you can get an item for less, and sometimes, I know that’s all that matters. But these choices affect your towns. Amazon’s business practices don’t impress me. This has been fairly well documented. But the bottom line (even if you aren’t a total liberal like I am), is that Amazon, Diapers.com and the rest of them truly don’t give a hoot about your small town. I want Middlebury to grow, to thrive, to get more restaurants and to be a place that is often buzzing, always vibrant. Thriving business make a thriving downtown. You make a downtown vibrant.
When I was a new mom, I liked the convenience of ordering from diapers.com and having diapers delivered to my door. But I never felt good about it. I finally realized that the local grocery stores and co-ops would do a bulk discount if I ordered a case of diapers. Slightly less convenient than having UPS deliver them to my door, but my money went to my neighbors. (And the prices are just as good as the online shops.)
I don’t shop at small businesses 100% of the time, but I do most of the time. If I’m tempted to shop online, I always ask myself: “Could I give this money to my neighbor or to another small business owner?” When I can, I do.
If you have friends or relatives who own small businesses: Buy from them, rave about them, refer friends to them. Give them a little wink or a wave when you go by. It all adds up and it feels pretty darn good.
ps. Plus we can hug back. Or not, if you don’t like that kind of thing. But you probably do.