By Daniel James Scott, Contributing Writer
We could live anywhere. We choose to live where beautiful beaches, warm weather, diverse culture, big city benefits and small town comforts surround us.
We could work anywhere. We choose to work where our impact and influence is acknowledged.
We can shop anywhere. We choose to shop local.
Or do we?
If not, we emphatically should, as making this choice can dramatically improve our lives.
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The mission of all local shops is to offer us something we simply cannot find anywhere else. Rewarding their novelty with our patronage ensures continued and growing options.
In short, choosing choice creates more choice.
Considering the Internet provides convenient access to virtually anything we could ever need to survive, where we choose to live has to provide us variety above and beyond the basics. It needs to provide us with enough uniqueness to keep us engaged.
Frankly, we don’t get to control much of our spending. Only about a quarter of every dollar we spend overall is on the non-essentials, the fun stuff. I don’t know about you, but whenever I make a payment to a nameless, faceless corporation, I long for the time when I get to look at a local business and find something distinctive and unique.
There is a biological reason for this as well. The process of active shopping, where we allow ourselves surprise and delight in discovery, releases dopamine into our brains. Dopamine makes us feel good. Fewer options equals less dopamine. We crave this feeling, so we’re addicted to finding new and different things. And this life-improving habit starts by shopping local.
On the other hand, choosing big box stores over independents creates fewer options and, therefore, less competition.
Mass retailers make their purchasing choices following efficiency, adapting to the “average” buyer. You and I are not average. We are individuals, with individual interests.
Individuality is worth fighting to maintain.
Reinforcing this decision, choice and individuality is coupled with improving wealth: yours, mine and across the entire community.
Let’s start with us. A mass retailer next door hurts our home’s value. A mix of local shops adds to it. Nobody wants to share a lot with a massive commercial enterprise. Everyone wants to live within short walking distance to the local barista.
How does our seemingly selfish choice help the community?
Money spent at local businesses generates three and a half times more wealth for the local economy compared to money spent at chain-owned businesses.
This isn’t about making your neighbor rich. It is about keeping local money local; that cash is twice as likely to be spent buying goods and services from other local businesses.
When you shop at chains, that money flows elsewhere. Our cash leaves the neighborhood. Permanently.
It doesn’t just hurt your choice of home and employment location, it makes someone else’s choice better for them.
And that is a choice we can specifically choose not to make.
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So yes, we could live anywhere. And yes, we choose to live local.
And we could work anywhere. We choose to work local.
And, not least of all, we can shop anywhere.
And we choose to shop local.
Daniel James Scott is associate director at University of South Florida St. Petesrburg USFSP Entrepreneurship.
Live Local! is a publication of LocalShops1, Tampa Bay's leading advocate for small businesses.