This first appeared in our weekly email newsletter, A Positive View of Rural.
Even though I love local business, I’m about ready to ban “shop local.”
Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? I mean, I’m something of a shop local champion. So why am I ready to get rid of “shop local”?
Because I’m afraid it has lost all its meaning. People have been beat over the head with “shop local” so much, that their heads hurt. They got the “shop local” part, but none of the bigger story made it through.
Here are two of my friends who recently shared very publicly why they didn’t shop local, and how local businesses brought it on themselves.
My friend James was trying to buy a coffee in a small town in the evening. The local coffee shop was closed. In fact, all the downtown businesses were closed. He ended up at McDonald’s. He wrote about it on Small Biz Survival: The Number One Complaint About Small Town Businesses.
Another friend, Chris stepped in to his local coffee shop, where he waited, without service and without attention for too long. And he left, probably for good, and went down the street to (you guessed it) McDonald’s.
““LOCAL” DOES NOT EQUAL “GOOD.”” Chris wrote about it later. “Local equals local….If you intend to be a local business, what will push people to choose you instead of the competition?”
Now that’s a good question! Chris went on to list a whole bunch of ways to give much better service than the chain or the big guys.
“If you can add value, you can trump price or availability as a local business,” he said.
See, Chris wants to care about local, but he doesn’t want to reward bad service.
And this is why I’m thinking of giving up on “shop local.” In its place, let’s start with improving our own businesses, and get much, much better about giving service and adding value. Then let’s work with our neighboring businesses to improve, too. Then when we have a good group of outstanding local businesses, let’s take that story to our customers. I’m betting they will listen to that much better than any generic “shop local” message.
If you want more of my help with your Shop Local project, take a look at the newly-updated Shop Local Campaigns for Small Town ebook.
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.