Regular readers of Coweta Life may have noticed that the shops and restaurants we write about are independent, locally owned businesses.
This is no accident. Every place we cover in this blog is somewhere where we love the food, products or service they offer. There are a variety of reasons that the independent shops of Coweta fit these criteria.
Simply put, we like the local view better. As a photographer, Susan particularly values a beautiful view. We don’t think anyone will argue that the shopping centers clustered around I-85 and the football field sized parking lots that surround them are just not as visually appealing as the shops in the downtown areas of Senoia, Newnan, Moreland and Grantville.
Maybe it’s shallow, but the immense generic facades of the huge chain stores just don’t have the same aesthetic appeal of a small storefront with a creative display behind the glass window.
We like to think that we are a friendly pair and we enjoy interacting with people. When you walk into a big box store to make a purchase, you may receive a mechanical greeting from an employee who does not really care if you are there or not.
Walking into an independent shop is a completely different experience. Yesterday, we went into Downtown Olive & Kitchen Supply Co. for the first time. We were warmly greeted by every person working in the store. We were invited to try samples and we chatted about the store and a few of the products. The level of service was incomparable with anything we have ever experienced at a multinational retail store.
When you walk into an independent shop and speak with the owner, you are very likely encountering a person who is pursuing a dream. Someone who has spent countless hours hand picking product, working on displays, bookkeeping, marketing and perfecting a business plan.
In other words, someone who is intimately invested in every aspect of their store, passionate about their product and interested in ensuring that you have the best experience possible. We find this kind of enthusiasm to be energizing.
When you step into a multinational chain clothing store, you are browsing through racks of the same clothes that your neighbors in Douglasville, Fayetteville, Atlanta and Boise, Idaho are. It’s just a little bit boring.
There is only one C.S. Toggery, and the clothing they carry isn’t available in every town from here to Boise.
One of the huge reasons we shop locally is the difference in quality. Independent shop owners are passionate about their wares and carefully select products for quality. They are also quick to make recommendations based on your needs and are sympathetic when you need to make a return. Products that customers don’t like quickly get removed from the store.
This is not the case with big box stores. Having the decision makers in the store getting first hand experience with the products and how they relate to customer need allows independent stores to more quickly hone the product selection to best fit the requirements of the community.
For some reason, independent stores have gotten an unfair reputation for having higher prices than their multinational corporate competitors. We have not found this to be the case.
We just each bought new outfits for Thanksgiving from The Pink Chair Boutique in Senoia and paid less for a whole look than what we would have for a single pair of jeans at The Gap.
We have found local prices to be the best available in most cases. To enjoy one of the best burgers you have ever tasted at Meat and Greet in downtown Newnan, costs significantly less than a passable burger at one of the chain restaurants in Ashley Park.
While we may shop at local stores for mostly selfish reasons, a vast body of research shows that our spending habits are really good for Coweta County.
Independent shops return over half their revenue to the local economy and the numbers are even higher for local restaurants. Independent eateries return nearly 80 percent of their profit back into the local economy.
Compare this to big box stores returning a low 14 percent of revenue to the local economy and chain restaurants returning 30 percent. This means that if you spend $100 at Stairway to Heaven Antique Mall, 58 of those dollars will recirculate into the local economy.
Taking your business to independent retailers directly translates into a healthier community.
Research has found that the encroachment of big box stores into an area cuts jobs and pay. For every employee hired at a big box store, an average of 1.4 jobs are lost due to small business closures. As if the lower employment rate weren’t bad enough, these companies pay their employees as little as possible often purposefully trimming their hours to just under 30 to avoid providing mandatory benefits. As a result, retail worker’s wages have been reduced by an astounding 4.5 billion dollars annually. When these employees fail to make enough to feed their families and do not qualify for insurance benefits because they are not allowed to work over 30 hours a week, taxpayers are forced to pick up the financial slack to the tune of 4.2 billion dollars every year. This covers food stamps, housing assistance and Medicaid. Combine this tax drain with the massive tax breaks and subsidies given to giant corporations and it turns out that big box stores create a net drain on local economies.
This low wage trend is not true for most small businesses. In fact, small businesses employ more people and pay them higher wages. Additionally, studies show that independent businesses encourage creativity in their employees, generating new ideas that have an unmeasured but positive impact on the economy.
Because of the sense of community that comes with working for a small, local business, employees report being more satisfied with their jobs and are more engaged in the community. They are more likely to be aware of local concerns, they vote more and they participate in local committees and activities at a greater rate than employees of chain stores. Research also shows that small business owners donate twice as much to charitable organizations as multinational corporations!
I hope that we have made a compelling case for why spending your money at local businesses is beneficial to you and the health of the local economy as a whole.
We realize that not everything you may wish to purchase is available from a local shop. The good news is that economists estimate that if people took just ten percent of the cash they were spending at chains and instead made purchases at local stores, it would put an additional 235 million dollars into the local economy every year. In real terms, if you browse our blog and try each of the local restaurants we feature, you will be putting contributing to the strength of the Coweta economy and get (in our opinion) better food into the bargain.
The benefits we highlighted so far are mainly the economic and social welfare ones. There are also others, such as the preservation of historic buildings and positive environmental impact that are equally important. We hope that this information will inspire you to avoid big box stores this black Friday and take advantage of some of the amazing sales that our local businesses are offering. Please tell us what your favorite local business is and tell us your reasons for shopping locally!