Help build a stronger community

Commit to spending more of your money supporting local businesses

Local business owners typically have invested their life savings in their local business. As a result they have a special interest in the long-term health and vitality of the community that supports them. These owners typically give more of their financial resources and time to support local non-profits and organizations. Look around at your community service organizations and you will see many local business owners serving on their boards and supporting local causes and activities.

It is true that some chain stores give back to the communities they operate in and not all local business owners are exemplary citizens. However, locally owned businesses clearly have a far greater impact on our local communities than chain organizations.

Numerous studies have been done over the years comparing the impact on the local economy from locally owned businesses compared to chain stores. The conclusions are always the same. Locally owned businesses return one to two thirds more of their revenue to the community through their local spending than chain stores. They also employ more local people than chain stores.

It makes sense because chain stores improve their profitability by centralizing key business functions. Functions like marketing, purchasing, and financial management are done in the corporate headquarters. While that may give them the opportunity to reduce prices to consumers, it is not always true. More importantly, buyers in far away headquarters are not aware of local product preferences so items that sell well in Pawtucket may not sell at all in North Central Washington.

Local business owners often have a personal touch with their customers that chain store managers do not possess. I’ll take the liberty of giving you an example here. Dan’s Market in Leavenworth has Butte pasties. In my hometown of Butte Montana pasties were a staple. Miners carried them in their lunch buckets. Eric Worthen, the current owner, must have a number of old Butte people who have asked him for those pasties because you can buy them in his store you won’t find them in Safeway.

Local businesses also buy much of what they sell from local producers. Chains may buy from local producers but often demand special pricing that can substantially impact the profitability of those local producers. Here’s another example. Wal Mart in Chelan occasionally runs flyers in the local newspapers of the communities where they operate. They only want to pay about half of the newspaper’s rate for running that insert. That is not fair to the local businesses that pay the local newspapers regular rates. In our case we refuse to give them special pricing so we only get occasional inserts for special promotions from Wal Mart. 

In most of the North Central Washington communities we serve there is not a heavy presence of chain stores businesses that compete directly with our locally owned ones. However, that does not mean our local communities are not impacted by chains. Most of us get in the car and drive to Wenatchee to buy at Home Depot, Cosco, Lowes, Olive Garden and other chains. To make matters worse many of our local residents are increasingly shopping on line, buying much of their products through Amazon or other on line retailers. The result is what’s commonly called “leakage.” Retail sales that would otherwise remain in the local community creating jobs and local prosperity go not just to Wenatchee, but to Kirkland, Arkansas and Hong Cong.

It is true that most of our local communities cannot provide all of the goods and services we require or provide the broad selection. What is true is that we all need to make a conscious effort to spend more of our money in our local community with locally owned businesses. Many shop local campaigns have been launched across the country and they often point out how committing to spend just 10 percent more of your purchases with a local, independently owned, business can make a huge change in the local economy.

Last year NCW Media began developed a shop local directory. It is available through all of our web sites and is growing every week. While the directory covers businesses across the three counties we serve, through the magic of electronic technology it sorts them by the ones that are closest to you. In other words, if you search from Leavenworth the businesses closest to Leavenworth will be sorted at the top.

This week we are also launching our new web sites. The new sites will make the information available on whatever platform you happen to be using including your smart phone. The shop local directories will be there as well.

So check us out, but more importantly let’s all make a resolution to spend more of our money in our local community this year. 

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