small indie local business

Should You Shop Big Corporate Local or Small Indie Local?

By Melanie Little

“Supporting local” doesn’t necessarily mean supporting small and local businesses in your community. “Local” is term that gets tossed around a lot lately. In fact, it’s used so much that it’s become a little kitsch. But what does it really mean? Well, technically, local can be used to refer to any business (large or small) that operates in your community.

Now here’s where the meaning of “local” can get a bit murky. When customers refer to a “local” business they usually mean a small locally-owned business. But “local” can also be used by big corporates to describe their locally operated branches in your community.

Phrases like “local business” or even “locally-owned business” might conjure up warm images of quaint mom-and-pop shops. But, clearly, that’s not always the case when the term “local business” is bandied about.

And why does this distinction matter? Well, as you’ll see, it’s because it’s in supporting small local businesses that “buying local” has its most beneficial impact.

Keeping More of Your Purchase Dollars Local

It’s not that big box corporates don’t contribute to our local communities. They do – but not nearly as much as the small independent local businesses do.

Supporting a small, local, independent business is the best way of making sure more of your money stays in your community. For every $100 made by small local businesses, they do all of these things MORE than the big box stores:

  • Hire more local employees – Creating more jobs to ensure more of our community members prosper
  • Fund more local charities – Giving back through local charities that do crucial work with our most vulnerable community members
  • Pay more municipal taxes – Investing more money back into communities to fund more municipal services
  • Source more from other small, locally-owned businesses – Which in turn hire more local employees…

See where this is going? You can check out this FAQ for a bit more info about how this works.

Economic Benefits of Buying from Small Local Businesses

Everything done with the money you spend (as listed above) is done to a higher degree by local independent businesses. This means your money goes so much further in supporting your local economy than it would if you’re buying the same thing at a large corporation like Indigo or Costco.

In fact, a study conducted in Chicago found that of every $100 you spend at a small local business, $68 of it stays in your local area. This means $68 of additional local economic return ultimately is generated after additional spending cycles. When the same $100 is spent at a chain retailer or big corporations however, only $43 remains in the area.

Furthermore, on average, 48 percent of each purchase at local independent businesses was recirculated locally, compared to less than 14 percent of purchases at chain stores.

Better Customer Experience

Have you ever had to deal with a large corporation when it comes to concerns you have about a product? There is usually a long wait and lots of hoops to jump through. This is different when you are dealing with a small local business. Usually, you get to deal directly with the person who runs the business whose main objective is making sure you are satisfied with the product or service they have provided. It is usually a quicker and smoother experience when it comes to having your concerns handled.

There is also a great sense of connectedness in the personalized shopping experience from a small local provider. So cool to greet your favourite café baristas by name and have them respond in kind – often with a suggestion of something new to try that you know you’ll love because they know your tastes so well.

And the fun of discovering and supporting a new small business venture opening in your community – so gratifying! For example, the new-to-you local gourmet mushroom provider or that new painter at the market whose art simply transfixes you. Purchasing from them feels good and does good. What could be better than that?

Everybody Wins When We Shop Small & Local More

It’s a win, win, win, scenario when you buy small and local even just that little bit more. You, your community, and your local economy, all benefit. Oh, and there’s one more big winner – our planet! By sourcing from small local providers we collectively reduce our carbon footprint!

When you stack up all the benefits, from personal to economic to global, it becomes a pretty compelling case for supporting small local businesses whenever you can. If we all buy small and local even that little bit more, we all come out on top!

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Melanie Little
Melanie Little is Co-founder of vlife - a social enterprise platform connecting support local customers with more small indie businesses. A home-educating, mompreneur of two from Halifax, Canada, Melanie is passionate about leveraging technology to connect people with solutions that help make the world a better place.


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  1. For the farm produced crops, I prefer to go with local producers, but for the consumer products, such as electronic devices, or complex items, I prefer to go with corporates because of their after-sales customer support, return policy, warranty, and the lowest cost.

  2. Hi Majid,

    Thanks for your reply! It’s great to hear that you make a point of sourcing locally for food items!

    Many buy-local supporters, like yourself, make a special point of buying local produce, which is great for helping to maintain sustainable local food sources & supporting local growers. And it’s true that many small businesses can struggle to source the high ticket price electronic items you mentioned.

    We’ve found that there are many quality goods and services available locally that people would prefer to buy from small businesses, but they simply don’t have an easy way to find them. This is largely because it’s can be very difficult to find small indie business offerings online, as social platforms and search engines are often dominated by big corporate options, rather than small local ones.

    In any case, buying local food is a great place to start! And in Nova Scotia, we’re lucky to have many of our farmer’s markets (who’ve had to close down while we work to “flatten the curve”) now offering safe home delivery! I’m hopeful that these local food delivery options will continue even after we’re allowed to be out and about again :-)

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