I was told a story recently about a shopper who went into a downtown store to take advantage of a going-out-of-business sale. The shopkeeper chastised her somewhat bitterly, wondering where this customer’s business had been before things got so bad that the shop had to close its doors.
While the shopper was a bit taken aback, I can sympathize with the small business owner, watching the death of their dream, feeling frustrated at trying to make a go in a small community.
Yes, there are casualties in capitalism. Sometimes business ideas just aren’t viable. But it got me thinking. If there are businesses in town that we like to shop in, that we want to retain, we need to make a conscious effort to support them – with cash.
And that’s where I was interested to catch a link to a very interesting website known at the 3/50 Project.
It’s a type of buy local campaign that was born from a blog post in March 2009 as a simple way of supporting independent, locally owned businesses. By educating consumers about the impact of their spending habits, the project’s goal is to increase consumer spending in a way that delivers the greatest amount of financial benefit to local community economies.
Citizens are asked to think of three businesses they would miss if they disappeared, then patronize them on a regular basis.
The number 50 ties to the fact that if just half the employed U.S. population dedicated $50 of their current monthly spending to locally owned independent businesses, more than $42.6 billion of revenue would be generated annually.
The 3/50 Project message then explains that for every $100 spent in local, independent brick and mortar businesses, more than $68 returns to the local economy; when spent in a big box or chain, the amount drops to only $43.
The group has an extensive definition of what makes it a local business, but comes down to the owner being directly connected to the community where the business operates – not a national chain, like Safeway, or a franchise, like Tim Hortons.
I like the concept, mostly because it is simple to do and spending at least $50 per month on a truly local operation is easily achievable for me. I also like that it makes me think a little bit more about where I’m spending my hard-earned dollars and how I want those dollars to benefit the city where I live.
I also like that the project isn’t about never shopping in big-box stores, because that’s not realistic for most of us. But when it comes to making shopping choices, I’m going to keep another mantra in mind: use it or lose it.