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Buying Local: Why it Matters

Buying Local: Why It Matters

Guest written by Kimberly Hoffman



Politicians and pundits agree: The future is likely to be different than the world before Covid-19. They just can’t agree on how it’s going to be different.

There’s general agreement that retail businesses — everything from big box stores to mom-and-pop operations will change.

Phoenix is one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation, attracting newcomers because of its climate, low cost of living, and distinctive Southwest flavor. But the retail landscape here will change in the pandemic's aftermath.

A respected brand strategy company, Big Red Rooster, predicts a resurgence of local businesses. “Communities are banding together to support local businesses — ordering take out, delivery, and shopping online from Main Street stores as much as possible,” the company said in a report published in April.

But an article in The Atlantic predicts the opposite, saying, “We are entering a new evolutionary stage of retail, in which big companies will get bigger, and many mom-and-pop dreams will burst.”

Who’s right may depend on how Americans behave on the other side of the pandemic. Local businesses face a tough challenge because they have fewer cash reserves compared to big chain retailers. Many also struggle to get federal stimulus help. An April 2020 survey by the National Bureau of Economic Research of 5,800 small businesses in the U.S. shows fewer than 40% of them believe they'll survive.

That's why buying local matters now more than ever.

They Keep the Dollars Local

Local businesses keep more money circulating in the local economy.

Studies show locally owned businesses are more likely to spend a greater share of their revenue locally. They use local banks, buy from local suppliers, advertise in local media, and use local accountants, insurance agents, and repair companies. That means the dollars stay in Phoenix. It’s estimated local businesses spend $68 of every $100 in the city, while only $43 spent by national retailers stays local.

Local Businesses Support Their Employees

Locally owned businesses employ more people per unit of sales and retain more employees during economic downturns. Big-box retailers often decrease the number of retail jobs in a region.

Local Businesses Promote Diversity

In the 21st century, immigrants have been responsible for all the net growth in Main Street businesses. Census statistics show immigrants own 53% of small grocery stores and sizable percentages of nail salons, and restaurants.

Local business owners know their communities. They don't rely on out-of-town executives who base their actions on computer stats and stock market moves. They also tend to give back to their community.

Local Businesses Preserve Culture and Character

The late playwright Tennessee Williams once said,  “There are only three great cities in the United States – New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans.” While many dispute his shortlist, Williams was naming cities with unique cultures and character. That character derives largely from local businesses — the restaurants, cafes, clubs, shops, and galleries that give a community its distinctive personality. In the decades since Williams made that remark, Phoenix has emerged as a major city with a distinctive and vibrant character.

One possible bright spot for local businesses is the pandemic’s exposure of the vulnerability of global supply chains. When we ship things from overseas, we spend more on shipping, and we expose ourselves to all sorts of problems.

The Big Red Rooster report suggests the public is becoming more aware of this weakness. More Americans are now inclined to opt for domestically and locally produced goods and services not at risk of international supply chain disruptions.

The pandemic may not stop Phoenix’s growth. But the future of its unique heritage — defined largely by its hometown businesses — is up to you to preserve. And you can do that by buying local.


Kimberly Hoffman is a restaurant critic who searches for the best place to dine in every city she visits. You won’t find her eating in any chain restaurants, preferring to sample the local cuisine in every city. The chefs in her favorites are willing to share their recipes with her.

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