What does “shopping local” mean in today’s world?
Shopping Local. It’s just a two-word phrase, but it conjures wide-ranging views and emotions. Why is this? I have been involved in retail in Watertown for over 33 years, but I believe that the request to shop local isn't just here in Watertown.
In today's world what the heck is local? Is it just Watertown or Sisseton or Brookings residents doing business within in respective cities? Is shopping local inconvenient? Is it not as much fun? Do we sometimes feel that we are told to shop local so much that we do the opposite out of rebellion?
Well, I would love to tell you that I have all of these answers. I could go on a tour sharing these answers if I possessed them, but that’s not the case.
Here are my thoughts:
I think that shopping local in years past meant supporting Watertown or the community where you live. Before interstate highways and reliable automobiles, it was difficult to travel for shopping. In those days, ignorance was bliss. The customer didn't know if they were missing out on some new gadget or garment. Shopping local was highly convenient. For many, it might have been one of the few times a year they would get a chance to see their neighbors and catch up.
I'm not silly enough to believe that every person saw eye to eye in those days, but I believe that for the most part, there was a sort of civic pride that came with doing business with your neighbors.
I think today, the reason shopping local hits so many different "nerves" with people is this:
Most shop local campaigns say just that: Shop Local. It sounds fairly demanding, and I don’t know about you, but I think most people don’t really like being told what to do. I truly feel instead of a demand, a request to shop local is in order.
Customers have a world of choices today. In my opinion, every “shop local” campaign should be revised to “please consider shopping local.”
I also believe that shopping local today means shopping in our geographic region. Here’s an example: My friend Steve Kirkey runs Fergen's Menswear in Brookings. He does a great job of selling menswear. He gives great service and carries quality products. Here at Trav's, we do a great job of selling boots and clothing, but not menswear. So when I needed a new suit for my son's wedding, I went to see Steve. I feel like I shopped local. The drive to Brookings was not inconvenient and it was good to catch up with his other patrons, some of which are even Trav's Outfitter customers.
My request always is this: please find a way to be satisfied with our “local” shopping options. Support those businesses that we do have. Over time, if we all do this, more businesses will come.
Understand that each dollar we spend is a vote: it’s a vote for our neighbors or against them.
God's Blessings to you all,