Before I was introduced to the natural parenting community I was a huge big box retail store shopper and couponer. Then I started to notice items I had purchased at these said stores were not holding up well to wear and tear. They were actually starting to cost me more in the long run since I was having to repurchase the same item over and over again. I hate to say it, even though I love Target, most of the clothes I have purchased from there have ripped very easily, or the color on their shirts have run and I end up with a splotchy mess. Other things I started to noticed is the employees just didn’t seem too enthused to be working at these stores. So, I decided to do an experiment. I decided to start shopping at small businesses to see if there was a difference. (Personally, I define small businesses as anywhere from a personal Etsy shops through businesses with less than 50 or so employees.) Little did I know it would turn me into a small business advocate, and totally change the way I think about stores and their products. Here is what I learned.
Product Availability: When I first decided to try to shop small I was concerned the products I wanted/needed would not be available. I quickly learned everything I wanted/needed was indeed available for purchase at a small business, and if it wasn’t they had a great alternative product. With being a new breastfeeding/pumping mom I had a lot of baby products I needed to purchase. I realized all of my breastfeeding/pumping products I needed, which I usually purchased at Target or Babies R US, were available at small natural parenting stores. Products like nipple cream, milk saver bags, breast pump parts, pumping bags, and the list went on and on. At the natural parenting store’s I even had a support system from the friendly staff and customers. If I picked up a product and had questions about it someone was there to tell me if it was good, or how to use it. This level of customer service is not available at big box stores. I did find the only thing I couldn’t purchase at these small natural parenting stores was disposable diapers. So, I continued purchasing those from big box stores till I was converted and switched over to cloth diapering. 😉
Product Quality: Hands down small businesses have better quality products then big box stores. Selling their product is their livelihood, and usually also their passion. This shows in their workmanship and products. THEY CARE. Target and other big box stores know the majority of people will keep coming back whether they are fully satisfied or not with their products. The cashier at the big box store did not make the clothes, furniture, or spend the time researching the best factories or manufacturing centers for the products. Small businesses, owners and employees, care about customer retention and they know if they are not selling a quality product then their customers will not repurchase.
Price: Yes, the price for some products at small businesses can cost more, but there are many reasons why; and I am OK with those reasons. An example of why products cost more at small businesses is because they care where their product materials are sourced and manufactured. You will find many small businesses only source their product materials and/or manufacture from places in the United States. (Or their own farm!) This alone will cause a product to cost more. I have also found other small businesses, while their product is not manufactured in the US, spend time searching for places overseas that will make their product fairly & conscientiously.
Owners/Employees: When you purchase a product from a small business you aren’t helping to pay the salary of a CEO that makes over ten million dollars, or more, a year and pays their other employees minimum wage or less. Most small business owners make less than $100,000 a year, sometimes significantly less, and that is if they are taking a regular salary. I have also found, in my experience, small business employees are a lot happier at their place of employment, and make a fair living wage in comparison to big box stores. (This lower wage trend at big box stores is slowly changing though due to public pressure on big box stores.)
Giving Back: The greatest perk of shopping small is to see how much small businesses give back. Not only to their customers, but also to the community in which they reside and beyond. The rewards programs, sales and giveaways with purchase that a lot of natural parenting stores do more than makes up for any product price increase you will see. I have never ordered online or checked out at Wal-Mart or Target and been told by the cashier that they were going to throw in a free product with my purchase just because they appreciated me as a customer. Small businesses appreciate you! They also give back to their communities. Not too long ago a small business district near where I live flooded due to heavy rains. Cars and local landmarks were swept away. Many of the small businesses and the surrounding community donated their time and money to help rebuild the shopping district. Other ways small businesses give back is through their online communities. Many small natural parenting stores also have online Facebook communities that foster acceptance and bring families together all across the world. These communities have helped create long distance friendships, and I have seen families reach out to help other families in need. Small Businesses giveaway and donate their products and time, not for the tax write off, but because they care.
I could go on and on why I love shopping small now, especially with small natural parenting stores. Yes, I still do sometimes go to big box stores to shop for groceries or to just walk around Target with my Starbucks coffee, I am a mom after all, but I love my small shops now, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Do you shop small or are a small business owner? Why do you shop small? What are your favorite small businesses to shop with, and why? I would love to see what in the comments. Let’s share the small business love!