Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Some Thoughts on Shopping

I wanted to respond to Woolysheep's comment here, because some people don't read comments, and I think she asks some very important questions.

In response to my last post, she said,

You need not worry about WalMart going out of business. It isn't small to medium sized and they're sittin' pretty. It's the mom-n-pops and small regional chains and/or franchises. What happens if your local shops can't get the loan to buy the supplies and materials needed by your local craftsmen? What happens when some of those local craftsmen and farmers can't get the financing they need to create next seasons stock?

In today's world, without credit, your community could end up with ONLY WalMart at which to shop.

Her last sentence is exactly the reason I hosted the Break the Chain challenge. If we spend the money we might have spent at Wal*Mart, in a locally owned or regional shop, then those small businesses stand a better chance of surviving, even in today's world of credit.

But that's not all.

In response to the questions asked, my local shops don't have to be the only venue for local craftspeople to sell their wares. It is possible that I could commission a local knitter to make me a couple of sweaters and some socks. I give my money to the craftsperson, who takes the money and gives it to a local spinner, who takes the money to a local farmer, who has sheep. The farmer shears the sheep, the spinner cards and spins the wool into yarn, and the knitter makes the items I have commissioned. *I* am providing the financing for the products I will be buying.

The other question is what happens when local craftspeople and farmers can't get financing for next years' stock, and local farmers have already solved that problem. It's called CSA or Community Supported Agriculture.

The thing is, if *we*, the consumers, ask for it, someone will provide it.

Two years ago, the only place to buy fresh vegetables during the winter was at the large, regional chain grocery store. This year, because *we*, the customers at our local Farmer's Market, asked for it, the host farm (of the Farmer's Market) will be offering storage crops suring the winter. The farmer's market closed last weekend, but their farm store is open daily until Thanksgiving, and then, they're open two Saturdays in December and two Saturdays in January. This will be the first year that they've done this, and it's a trial. If it goes well, who knows what they'll offer next year.

But the point is that there were enough of us asking for it, and so they found a way to make it happen. It helps them, and it helps us.

In short, if *we*, the consumers, decide to start shopping local - more -, and stop giving - most of - our dollars to the large chain stores, just because that's the easiest thing to do, more small to medium sized businesses will thrive, even in these tough times, and the too-big-to-fail big box chains will be the ones shuttering up instead.

It really is up to us, and none of us need sit idly by while the big box stores take over our communities. *We* can make a difference, but we have to be willing to make the effort.


  1. But even Wallys was small and mom and pop once right? And does every mom and pop go into business thinking "I want to stay small and local and never expand." Some I sure do, but I've know people with small businesses that have done well and started to grow really fast and faster than they expected.
    When the consumer asks for it and someone can provide it--and sometimes when it's only someONE then that someone gets big like Walmart.
    What about the mom and pop Chinese restaurants out here that are using farmed out Chinese immigrants brought in from the midwest and working them horrible hours and not paying them OT and getting away with it for years? It's not just your big evil chains succeeding on the backs of the workers.
    I don't know. I'm very jaded. I'd like to think that it was black and white and rosy. But it's too gray and mauve.

  2. Yeah, but Walmart isn't a Mom & Pop now, and it's up to us how much expansion we're willing to finance.

    I'm probably a little naive, but it really is black and white to me. I feel very strongly that I have choices when it comes to where I buy the things I want/need.

    In my experience, there has never been just ONE establishement willing to provide a product or service. In fact, at my local farmer's market, five of the thirteen vendors offer only produce, and they all have, basically, the same products for roughly, the same price. Somehow, they all manage to earn enough to get through to the next season without undercutting each other or pushing the smaller guy out of business.

    I also have choices when it comes to restaurants, thrift stores, bookstores, hardware stores, grocery stores, doctors, dentists, car repair shops and dealerships, shoe stores, army surplus stores, hunting stores, feedstores, candy stores, toy stores .... There are lots of choices.

    It's up to us to make the decisions that we can feel good about.

  3. I totally agree with Wendy. It's a movement that big box will have to (over time) join. I will shop locally for local products. I will only buy products "made in USA" We have already made changes here. Our big box grocery stores now carry local produce and lots of organic foods. We now have television commercials asking people to support local business. The movement is growing, slowly. With out your challenges people really don't think about what their buying.
    Bessie, I have seen local business sell out to big corporations. Tom's of Maine, once voted on of the best places to work, sold out to Colgate. They shut down the plant in Kennebunk, moved to a town nearby with bigger facilities and then re-organized. Laying off and cutting benefits. William-Arthur, a wonderful home grown stationary company, sold out to Hallmark, again layoffs and now talk of closing plant altogher. All a product of growing pains with promises to keep all employees. And off course, a good selling price. It's an American Dream for the owners.
    As for me, I'll continue to do Wendys challange after Oct 31st.

  4. I'd love to know where the farm stand you mention is. I'd be willing to drive down to your area to get some local produce this winter. Our local farm store is open year round, but they specialize in local, naturally raised meat. We buy our meat from there year round, but they have next to no produce - yummy baked goods though. We also buy our maple syrup from them as we've been to their mapling operation. It feels really good to get our food locally. Though it's difficult in the winter - hopefully soon we'll be able to grow more for ourselves in the colder seasons with "hoop houses" and cold frames, but these are future projects.

  5. Hope, you've been there. It's Snell Family Farm in Buxton. Remember? We toured their farm with the Spiral Scouts :).

  6. I agree! In Indy, because we want it, we've been able to support a winter farmers markets, and many of the traditional markets are extending the season. People are starting to see the point of keeping their money in their communities!