Because of our company’s local focus, I frequently find myself in Buy Local conversations. While the discussion continues about how to spread the importance of buying local, I sometimes hear some question as to whether the messaging is still necessary—like people believe the work is done. It’s far from done, and the importance of people understanding why may even be more important as our consumer world evolves.
When Buy Local became a movement, the message was about how important it was to support locally owned businesses and their struggles in competing with big-box and chain stores. While this is still a consideration, greater obstacles include large online businesses, such as Amazon. Even the big-box and chain stores are struggling to compete with Amazon and the like, and in their search for a solution, they look to the internet. What does this mean? Closed storefronts and lost jobs.
Similar to Wal-Mart, who set out to directly compete with local business, Amazon has targeted not only local business, but also the chains, including Wal-Mart. They’re doing it with the lure of convenience—purchase what you need without ever leaving your home or office. And now Amazon is physically moving into communities to complete the takeover. Amazon’s goal is to be the exclusive option for retail, groceries, pharmacy, and anything you want or need.
Perhaps this idea sounds great to you—one company to meet all your purchasing needs with a simple login. But how does it ultimately affect you? How does it affect our community? What effect does revenue leaving our state create? And what about jobs? The capability is already there through technology to reduce or even eliminate the need for staff. Isn’t this the perfect path to that end?
Also changed is our recognition of the impact of our new purchasing habits on local business. I’ve had retail clients share stories of people entering their stores and obtaining assistance from employees only to then see them collect product information to take home and make purchases. Sometimes they don’t even try to hide it and actually tell staff that’s what they’re going to do. It puzzles me how this ever became acceptable. So here’s a locally owned business, providing employment and customer service to members of our community, only to have an individual tell them they’re now going to make their purchase online.
My thoughts and why I express them arise from what I stated at the beginning this letter—we are and have always been about promoting and supporting local people, businesses, and organizations. It’s not a political stance, it’s simply that we’ve experienced how the strength of local business enhances our community, and we’re really lucky that’s the case. Those of us that live here and those visiting love the community these people and places create. We hope you’ll always remain cognizant of this when making purchasing decisions. We don’t expect you’ll never make an online purchase, but we hope you’ll always think local first. And we’re proud to always make wonderful recommendations in each and every issue of Madison Essentials and all its sister publications.