Support Your Local Retailer

Discussion
Sep 07, 2010
Tom Ryan

By Tom Ryan

What started as a simple blog post in March 2009 has turned into
a national campaign to support local stores. The 3/50 Project encourages consumers
and businesses to spend $50 of their monthly budget in three small retail stores
they don’t want to disappear.

"It’s called saving the economy three stores at a time," Cinda
Baxter, the blogger and founder of the 3/50 Project, told the Brooklyn Eagle.

The 3/50 Project website notes that if only
half of all employed people spent $50 at three small businesses, it would generate
more than $42.6 million in revenue. It also claims that for every $100 that
is spent at a locally-owned independent business, $68 comes back to the community
through taxes, payroll and other expenditures, as
compared with $43 from a national chain and zero from an online order.

Ms. Baxter,
who is a retail consultant and formerly an owner of an upscale stationery and
gift boutique in Minneapolis, also noted that when a national chain needs supplies
— like toilet paper, paper towels, etc. — it doesn’t
buy it locally. "The small retailer usually does," she said.

Beyond
consumers, the movement goes an extra step by encouraging businesses, including
retailers, to shop local for supplies.

"It’s remembering we wear multiple hats," she said.

The project
is offering small businesses free flyers, window banners, counter signs and
window clings, help with web sites and links
to support the cause. The website also includes numerous ways small businesses
can promote themselves and capitalize on their advantages. Said Ms. Baxter,
"They can spin on a dime, think out of the box, reverse trends without going
through corporate and getting board approval."

The 3/50 Project is said to
be resonating with consumers. Noting that she is receiving between 300 and
400 emails a day, Ms. Baxter told the Brooklyn
Eagle
, "People are realizing that where they hand over the dollar
is important."

The New York City borough’s "Shop Brooklyn" program will be marketed alongside
the 3/50 Project.

Discussion Question:  What do you think of the 3/50 Project and other programs
supporting local businesses and retailers?

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21 Comments on "Support Your Local Retailer"


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Bob Phibbs
Guest
10 years 8 months ago

I support the 3/50 program wholeheartedly but with a caveat. If customers are going to choose local first, they shouldn’t have to settle for shoddy service or surly employees. The best stores which support this grass roots effort have realized it is more of a partnership to do a better job and deserve locals patronage rather than see it as a one-sided magic bullet where the customer is expected to do all the work.

Warren Thayer
Guest
10 years 8 months ago

“Buy local” is picking up steam; there are many individual organizations like this around the country now. I was thrown by the $42.6 million in revenue figure; don’t know over what period, or just what that number represents, etc., but I do think people have been sorry to see a lot of small businesses die and have been dissatisfied with service at big box stores. So I look for this to grow, perhaps even more if this recession ever goes away. Right now, it’s a little tougher paying the higher prices most small businesses have to charge.

Doug Fleener
Guest
10 years 8 months ago

I also support the buy local movement, but we have to make sure independents are inspiring people to buy local and not trying to guilt them. I once had a retailer say that “people owed the local retailer their business.” Not surprising that retailer is out of business. Independents just need to remember that getting your share of 3/50 is based more on their actions and not the consumers’.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
10 years 8 months ago

The key phrase to me is “that they don’t want to disappear.” Limiting the conversation to big versus small misses one important point: many small stores and boutiques sell non-essential items; therefore, their biggest competition isn’t Walmart or a department store, it’s shoppers doing nothing. To me, the value of the 3/50 program isn’t socking it to the big guys, it’s a wake-up call for shoppers to frequent these businesses and open the wallet a bit wider when they do.

Gregory Belkin
Guest
Gregory Belkin
10 years 8 months ago

I agree with Bob, above. Supporting local stores definitely had its benefits for them and for the community. However, the challenge is to ensure prices remain competitive. Local owned shoppes sometimes have better quality, but in these hard times they must fit into the consumer’s budget.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
10 years 8 months ago

The whole “Buy Local” approach is very popular where I live–but its long-term viability lies in the hands of the local retailers. If they drop the ball, the local community will drop them. There are no entitlement clauses in capitalism.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
10 years 8 months ago

Buying locally is a wonderful concept, but as Ms. Spieckerman points out the shops have to be carrying item that the customer wants. In many of the small local shops the owner tends to stock what they like rather then what their customers want. This form of projection is a death sentence for any business but is certainly more damaging when the items being carried are non-essentials. Supporting your local retailer also means your local retailer supports its customers.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
10 years 8 months ago
I guess I am missing the point. This seems totally illogical to me. I relate it to a local Hallmark store that recently closed after being here “forever.” I hated to see it go. It was convenient. It had a great offering. Its pricing was in line. I bought all my cards, wraps, ornaments, etc…there. But, be assured, I would never buy a card, wrap or anything else I didn’t need just to keep them in business. Isn’t that what 3/50 implies? Buy stuff you don’t need? Buy stuff you don’t want? Or, pay more than the convenience it offers makes any sense? It is nice having a bakery in the neighborhood. After about 3 years our neighborhood bakery closed. Why? Because their products weren’t very good. Supermarkets offered fresh bakery products that were better than this bakery. Should people have supported the bakery just to keep it around? If the retailer has the right offering, at the right price, with the right service consumers will buy their products and hopefully it is enough to… Read more »
John Karolefski
Guest
10 years 8 months ago

Buying local is a great idea, but the retailers need to deliver. Prices might be a challenge, but customer service is the way to make a real difference. Make shoppers feel welcome. Make them feel special.

Anne Howe
Guest
10 years 8 months ago

I have been a fan of supporting local retailers and farmers at the market as well, for many years. My farmer pals at the market are always thankful for the business and say so openly. But frankly, only one of the local retailers ever asks me on every single visit “did you find everything you were looking for today?”

And guess what? They DO SOMETHING with all those comments, and change the merchandise to match what shoppers want.

And guess what? They are thriving and their prices are higher than any other store in the area.

And guess what else? The aisles and counters are full of staff who are helpful and friendly and say thanks for your business.

At the end of the day, it’s a two way street. And I’m happy to continue doing my part for those retailers who do theirs as well.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 8 months ago

Supporting our local stores should be a part of each person’s weekly and monthly objectives. More money comes back to the local economy from dealing with the local store owners than from the nationals. Supplies and utilities are returning more to the local economy. Supplies from paper, soap and cleaning needs. Utilities on the national scope are managed by a third party to gain lower costs and better savings to a national retailer. The local retailer pays top dollar. They have no bargaining power to gain reductions. Those are just two examples.

I am going to make it a point to take it up a notch and support four locals a week starting today. Are you going to join me?

Doug Stephens
Guest
Doug Stephens
10 years 8 months ago

I believe that the best retail will survive…whatever the consumer deems “best” to mean.

The fact is, almost every business begins as a small, local business. Survival and growth can’t be predicated on any program, campaign or sense of community onus. It will be (as it always has been) driven entirely by the quality of the business and the degree to which customers love it.

James Tenser
Guest
10 years 8 months ago

As shoppers we should reward merit by directing our dollars toward the best overall experiences. Local convenience, familiar service, and interesting product assortments are significant parts of that value construct, in my opinion. So, paying a bit more may sometimes be a rational choice.

But I’m not in favor of subsidizing lackluster businesses out of pity. Sure, retailing is a hard business, chain competition can be brutal and independent retailers must possess a mastery of many skills to survive. But good is good, and I see no good reason to reward substandard performance.

Patronizing local independent retailers just because they are local and independent is–well–patronizing.

Jonathan Marek
Guest
10 years 8 months ago

There’s a reason national retailers have beaten out local retailers over the past 50 or so years…on average, they better meet consumers’ needs. Having said that, there is also much “higher beta” among local retailers.

I don’t buy into the “Buy Local” mantra. Buy the best, given your needs. If that’s local, great. If not, great. Either way, you’ll be fueling the better retailer’s growth, creating a better retail landscape going forward.

David Livingston
Guest
10 years 8 months ago

I’m all for supporting local businesses but if charitable spending is needed to keep them in business, then perhaps these local shops really have no business being in business. Well-run, local shops that provide a compelling and competitive shopping experience don’t need this kind of charity. It’s really not fair to the local businesses who have stepped up in class and already are doing fine without the charity.

Mark Burr
Guest
10 years 8 months ago
“In three local retailers they don’t want to disappear”? It sort of begs the question, if they didn’t want them to disappear–wouldn’t they be shopping there already? I’d think so, but then again having a reminder isn’t a bad idea. The problem is that if they aren’t shopping there already, what’s the compelling reason to do so now? Is it simply because they don’t want them to disappear? Come on! The decision that they should disappear is being made daily by shopping their competitors in the first place. In most cases, the premise is asking them to lend a few dollars back to a retailer they had already chosen to abandon. Yet, why did they abandon them in the first place? A recent experience told me that consumers will absolutely and positively go across the street for a dime. Yes, a dime. A dime savings on a daily commodity purchase averaging $30.00. Its a 1/3 of one percent savings. Yet, they do it–everyday. We discuss often that consumers aren’t only motivated by the simple factor… Read more »
Mark Johnson
Guest
Mark Johnson
10 years 8 months ago

Convenience, unique products or service, unique engagement, or top shelf customer experience/service are the challenges. People will and do pay more for the aforementioned areas.

Devangshu Dutta
Guest
Devangshu Dutta
10 years 8 months ago

Perhaps this awareness campaign can prompt a few conscious, conscientious consumers to make a difference to a few deserving small retailers. I doubt anyone will spend even 50 bucks at an undeserving store–they’ll probably be better off contributing that money to your favored charity or, better still, even acting as “angel investors” in a neighborhood kid’s wacky business idea.

In a market that is inherently price driven, the bigger question about the small retailer’s capability to invest in getting getting the most locally-appropriate product assortment in place, and pricing competitively, remains.

For vendors who sell to US customers when comparing with, say, European or Japanese customers, the one driving factor that stands out in business transactions is price; too many times for it to be inconsequential. The same behavior seems to be reflected on the part of the consumer; as Scanner says: consumers will cross the street for a dime.

Unless that changes, there’s little hope for the local small store.

Tony Orlando
Guest
10 years 8 months ago
The 800 lb. gorilla known as Wal-Mart will continue to dominate the retail landscape, in spite of the campaign to support local businesses. Many people pay lip service to local businesses, but their wallets usually leads them right back to the big box stores and wholesale clubs. HOWEVER; it is crucial that small businesses understand how to grow each year. You must offer great products at great prices year round, and bring in unique offerings that appeal to the high end customer, BUT at a really great value. This does not mean small profits, it is really in the procurement process that profits start to happen. In my supermarket, we have committed to 100% scratch prepared deli salads, and entrees, and our sales have grown over 20 percent from a year ago. The commercial potato and macaroni salads are now relegated to the 5-lb. tubs sold in the dairy case at $.99 lb. and do well. Sampling is second nature to my employees, and it really increases sales. We started making chocolate covered bacon @… Read more »
Cinda Baxter
Guest
Cinda Baxter
10 years 8 months ago

I appreciate the comments above, although it appears a few folks are missing a key point. The 3/50 Project message begins with the simple request to return to three businesses you like, not save those you don’t, not “subsidize” businesses who drop the ball. While it may seem logical to assume if someone likes a business, they’re frequently returning there, that’s not always the case. How many times have you heard the following conversation?

Person A: “I was so sorry to see that restaurant close. They were really great.”

Person B: “I’m sorry to see them close too. When was the last time you ate there?”

Person A: “Two years ago….”

Sadly, even when we love special places, our busy lives allow us to forget them. The 3/50 Project is a powerful reminder that as consumers, we have the power to keep those places we already deem wonderful and worthy around. If we drop the ball, they go away.

It’s just that simple.

Here’s to big things ahead for all the little guys out there!

Christopher P. Ramey
Guest
10 years 7 months ago

3/50 as a celebration for small business is fine; it may be dangerous as a consumer message.

The overarching message for small business ought to be WE ARE SUPERIOR BECAUSE…. The reasons may range from your flowers are fresher/last longer because they’re local to the pants you sell have a short rise so they’re not droopy when you wear them. Whatever the reasons for your superiority may be, none of them should smack of a handout or be self-serving.

Find differentiation and sell it.

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