I went hot air ballooning with my husband this morning, and passed by the construction of a huge addition to the WalMart in a nearby town on our way home.
“How will locally owned businesses survive this?” I thought.
We have to do it better than they do!
In his article “Is ‘Show Local’ Just Lazy Marketing” in Forbes Magazine, T. Scott Gross gives us a hint about what small local business can naturally do better – provide exceptional service, and a great shopping experience.
They can’t compete with box stores for price, but my local hardware store and office supply will order anything I need and have it for me in a few days.
They know my machines, understand what kind of yard care products will work best on my lawn, and chat me up about the weather and local politics while we scan the aisles for something else I might need.
It’s a fact that I can get a pair of jeans for a song at Walmart or Target, but at the little clothing store in Mt. Shasta, a few miles away, their staff can give me advice about how to dress those jeans up or down, and help me find accessories that actually look good on me!
I will still occasionally go to box stores to save money, and everyone in small towns always will, but the trade-off is that our visitors aren’t “shopping local” either. They are coming to our towns and supporting our businesses!
Why? Because the EXPERIENCE our small town locally owned businesses provide is part of the attraction we offer. T. Scott Gross talks about the value of that experience in his article.
I love the whole idea of local first campaigns, not as a way to police locals to catch they with WalMart bags, but as a way to remind everyone in town about the true value of our local businesses.
They serve us all well, and they provide an attraction for our visitors who are longing for that personal attention we take for granted in small towns.
WalMart tries to copy it with their “greeters.” But nothing compares to a clerk, a guide or motel owner or restaurant server in a small town who is really paying attention to you.
All our attractions and events and outdoor recreation may bring people to our small towns, but it is the person-to-person connections that visitors make with the folks running our locally owned businesses that bring them back again and again… and has them talking about us to their friends and on review sites.
Here are two past articles about Local First campaigns in small towns:
Photo on Flickr by Patrick Hosely