Shop Local? Why?

There seems to be a large push to "shop local" here in Winnipeg.  I suspect that it is similar in other cities as well, but I see more and more advertisements, radio spots, signage, pushing Winnipeggers to shop locally.  But why? Why is it good to shop locally?

The idea of shopping locally is a good one, and I believe there is merit in it.  Obviously, as a business owner in Winnipeg, I am a big fan of clients shopping locally.  Without that, well we would simply cease to be.  However, this does not mean that I get to sit back and relax, believing that just because this idea of shopping locally is being spread around that customers will come to me.  On the contrary, as a locally owned business, I still must be as competitive as possible.  This does not just mean against my local competition, but across Canada as well.  With today's online world, my competitors are all over the world now!  Being local should not give me the ability to charge more for my product.  However, I would hope that being local would give me first crack at selling to a local client.

Shopping locally also has many other great side effects: better for the environment, better for the economy as local businesses have to employ workers, plus it gets you out of the house!  Who wants to sit behind a computer screen and Google all day long?

There is a big push in the online marketing world called "Online To Offline."  The idea that the majority of people will do their research online, but end up making the purchase in a physical bricks-and-mortar store.

"10 out of 10 people will shop for their engagement ring online.  9 out of 10 will buy it in store."

I recently had an experience where I wanted to buy an item locally.  A quick Google search indicated to me where I could purchase this item, and quickly provided me with the phone number of the establishment.  After a quick call to make sure that the item I was looking for was in stock, I got into my car and drove to the store.  When I got there, I wasn't greeted, or helped.  After finding someone to help me, they were less than helpful and gave me next to no options.  So what did I do? Well, I didn't buy it there.  Instead, I went online and purchased it.  Let me be clear: money was not the driving factor that made me buy online, it was poor service and the fact that I did not want to give my money to that establishment after I went out of the way to buy something from them.

Shop Local is great, but the danger in it is that retailers will become relaxed.  Or there will become an expectation that everybody SHOULD shop locally.  As a local business owner, I hope that everyone will at least give us a shot first, before searching outside of Winnipeg for a product we carry.  Will I sit by and expect people to come into the store simply because we are locally owned? Not a chance.  We are very proud to offer the level of service that we do because we know that service cannot be sold online.  And it is my belief that this is a big reason why people will keep coming in to see us.  As soon as we stop offering exceptional service, then we will start losing to the online world.