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Opinion Businesses need to give us a reason to buy local

The current thrust to encourage people to shop locally is a double-edged sword. Followed rigorously, many communities such as Franklin would find themselves in dire (or more dire) economic shape if the money spigot from outside the area was reduced to a trickle. Imagine if people from Florida and elsewhere switched from vacations here to staycations at home. Or, instead of a mountain second home, opted for a beach house. Is the concept of “shop locally” only something for “our” locals to adhere to?

I buy a fair amount online, many times for things I can't find locally, such as a bass ukulele or an electric kazoo. Another consideration for online purchases is when the cost of an item is significantly lower than I could find in a retail store. A $10 electronic cable from an online supplier could be purchased from my friend Larry for $15, possibly ordered from the same distributor in New Jersey. Instead of me keeping the five bucks in savings, Larry would have the five dollars. The process is a wash as far as money staying local. In fact, Larry has told me keep my dough in such instances.

Saving money on my purchases allows me to spend more locally, such as utilizing Larry's tax preparation instead of butchering the job myself and winding up with an IRS audit.

Consumers should try to get the best value for their hardearned money. Running a small business, I strive to provide that. Sure, the “big boys” have advantages in capital and marketing, but that is where carving out a niche comes into play. While most of my customers live nearby, many come from around the country and the world, just like the products I buy for the business. In one way or another, we are all connected to the global economy.

I have reservations about politically or socially motivated purchases. I'm not interested in trying to guilt people into supporting local businesses only because the business is local. “Buy from me, I need your money,” isn't a very convincing advertising angle. Businesses need to find ways to make buying local relevant. Fortunately, there are people and community groups taking greater initiative and are developing creative ways to entice and encourage patronage.

Venture Local Franklin, an inclusive citizens group comprised of energetic business-minded people, have organized a “Street Fest on Main,” for Friday, July 13. Shopping, dining, movies, and music are being promoted for the event. Just to see a 26-foot movie screen downtown is worth the price of the non-admission.

Another innovative project taken on by Franklin's Books Unlimited is “Find Waldo Local.” July is a month-long scavenger hunt involving downtown businesses displaying/ hiding cardboard cutouts of the 25-year old children's book icon in their shops, with prizes awarded for the participants who visit the stores. The Waldo promotion and the Street Fest are cool happenings for the local community. I also hope that scads of folks from outside the area decide to visit, partake and shop, un-locally.


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