The BEST thing happened to me on Friday. I was shopping at Citizen Kid, my neighbourhood toy store, and someone came in to ask about a baby sling. The owner of the store immediately recommended my store on Ottawa Street – without even realizing that I was right there. (I’m so glad he didn’t recognize me – my kids were acting like little hooligans.) But I was just so touched when I heard him explaining where to find us. We love to tell people about his store, and it was delightful to find that they do the same. Honestly, I was teary-eyed.
It was such a wonderful illustration of how small business strengthens a community. As I walked happily home from the toy store, pulling my girls and my purchase in the wagon behind me, I thought “well, this will work well in my next post.” I love when life works out so nicely. :)
On Thursday I wrote about baby carriers and why they cost so much. In short, I said that quality comes with a price and that investing in a good carrier is a far better use of your money than the many other things that we buy. Except Thursday when I wrote that, I managed to drag it out for 1000+ words. Sorry about that.
I know that some baby carriers are just plain expensive. Believe me, I know that money doesn’t go far these days and I’d like to write a post about ways to save a few bucks when buying a carrier. But before I get to that, I’d like to write about another topic first: supporting local, independently-owned businesses. And though I’ll be writing from the perspective of a babywearing store owner, the principle applies to any independently-owned specialty store in your hometown.
Support Local by Shopping Local
I can’t count how many times people have told me how wonderful it is to have a store full of baby carriers here in Hamilton. “Such a selection!” “What a great resource!” “How fantastic that a place like this exists for new moms.” And those people go and buy online from another store half way across the country.
When you are trying to run a small business, you pretty much work off your personality, and because of that, there’s no such thing as “just business”. Everything is personal.
My message today is simple: if you believe that a store (online or brick and mortar) is an asset to your own community – if you see value in its existence – you need to support that store by shopping there.
For instance, if you go to your local yarn store to check out the yarn and get some help with a new stitch, you then need to support that local yarn store with your purchases. Don’t go home and buy the same yarn online to save a few bucks. When everyone does that, your beloved yarn store will go out of business.
If your local bookseller helps you choose a book to read, don’t turn around and buy the book off of Amazon instead. (Oh – interesting side note – I once received two copies of a book – one from Chapters and one from a small bookstore. I was stunned when I saw that the pricing actually printed onto the book flap itself was different and that Chapters was charging more. Crazy, eh? OK, back to my post…) Support that bookseller by buying at his or her store.
Yes, local retailers are doing what they do because they love it. But love doesn’t pay the bills. :) If you have a local store that is valuable to you, then you need to support that store with your purchases. No, you don’t need to buy everything from that store, but when it comes to a difference of few bucks or waiting a week to get the exact color that you want sent in, be thoughtful in your choice. That’s all I ask.
I feel like we’ve lost touch with the true value of things, which kind of goes back to Thursday’s post again. We search out the best deal possible and we buy at the cheapest price we can. That’s just common sense, right? But somebody, somewhere, is paying the price. For example, there seems to be a bunch of “China Cheap” diapers available online. If you are buying cloth diapers that cost less than half the cost of regular brand-name cloth diapers, then you should assume that corners are being cut somewhere. That might mean that the workers aren’t being paid well, or that the safety standards aren’t up to par, or that the diaper won’t last a full three years (let along multiple children). Someone is somehow absorbing the price cuts. Maybe your local baby store doesn’t stock those diapers for a reason.
Another example – I have a friend that bought an Ergo online straight from Hong Kong. It was less than half the price of retail and she was thrilled. She had no idea that it was probably a knock off – Ergo has a big problem with that. How could my friend ever fully trust the safety of the dyes, the integrity of the stitching, or the quality of the buckles for her baby?
Some things are worth paying more for.
The Value of People
In the same way the we don’t appreciate the true value of things, we’ve lost the ability to see the value in people. I’ve seen suggestions on babywearing forums that people should go into a baby carrier store, try out the carriers, then go home and buy off Kijiji. I feel bad for the store owner who is so casually dismissed. I know that despite having a pile of emails and phone calls and orders to attend to, the owner will put everything on hold while they give their undivided attention to the person who came in the door for help. Then, after an hour, that person will walk out the door to search for a better deal. The store owner will know, by the way. And they will feel used.
We’re so used to low prices at big box stores staffed by people working minimum wage that we’ve lost sight of what things are worth. I don’t think that’s a sign of a healthy society.
Again, I’m not saying that you have to buy everything from your local independently-owned store. But you do need to find a way to support them sometimes if you want them to stick around. That means buying bread from your local bakery or visiting the farmers market or trying out the non-franchised restaurant for a change. Supporting local means stronger communities.
So how are ways we can support local business?
- Recommend a place on Facebook – be sure to tag them so that they know you did it.
- The simple act of “liking” a Facebook post or commenting on it is always appreciated – particularly become Facebook chooses newsfeed items by popularity.
- If you find a product offered elsewhere at a better price, ask your local business owners to match it. They might jump at the chance to move some inventory. (But don’t nickel and dime them. Maybe come back and reread this post first.)
- If the store you frequent doesn’t have the particular model that you want, ask if they can order it for you.
- Buy from small retailers instead of a manufacturer directly – that way you’re supporting your local store AND the brand that you like.
- Tell your friends about your favorite stores – nothing beats word-of-mouth advertising!
- Take a few cards from your favorite store and pass them out to people who might be interested in the products. Might I suggest that the pocket of your baby carrier is a good place to stash them? ;)
- During the holidays, make a point of shopping at independently-owned stores.
- Check out the 3/50 Project for more information. It’s a great site.
I personally have a very hard time trying to find balance between my desire to consume less but encourage people to buy from me at the same time. I haven’t figured it out yet. But I know that a lot of babywearing stores have shut down this year and that’s discouraging – it represents so much lost experience and expertise. Now the parents in those communities will have to rely on the staff at Toys R Us to explain a stretchy wrap or recommend a carrier for breastfeeding. Yikes. That’s a scary thought. :P
Okay, let’s have some fun. You remember from yesterday that I’m giving away a Sakura Bloom ring sling? For today’s entry, pick a local, independently-owned store in your city and send them an encouragement via Twitter or Facebook. That might mean you write a recommendation and tag them on your wall or do a Follow Friday for the store on Twitter. Show some love and then come back here and tell us who you picked – be sure to include a link to your post or tweet!* Contest is open to Canadian residents only, excluding Quebec. Carrier may be substituted for one of equal or greater value at my discretion. End small print now.
Too much work? C’mon, you could win a $215 ring sling!!! :) Take five minutes and brighten someone’s day!
*Okay, I didn’t know how to do this for the longest time. To link to a Facebook post or Twitter tweet, find your post and then click on the time (on Facebook, this is below your name, beside your profile pic; on Twitter, this is on the top right side above the tweet) – this link will bring you to the message you posted and that’s the link that we’re looking for here.
*Photo by NYCphotos-flickr.