Did you know that on average, 67 cents of every $1 you spend at a local business stays to benefit the local community, according to American Express estimates?
But shopping local isn't charity or some kind of sacrifice we have to make for the greater good. Shopping local is a sound financial decision. It is a firm vote for greater prosperity and higher quality of life for us and our local communities.
To prove this, my three points below are based on specific examples using my own business, Sweeney's Sports. However, exactly the same principles would apply to a local deli, grocery store, bookkeeping service, martial arts studio, antique shop, etc.
#1. Better service and a product selection curated specifically for the local community.
It's fairly obvious to everyone that the service level at small, local businesses is superior to big box stores or online shopping, so I won't spend a lot of time on this point. The local businesses are staffed with local folks who are passionate about their chosen profession and would likely know you by name.
A simple example of this for Sweeney's Sports would be a customer looking for fishing equipment, bait, and advice specific to fishing the Napa River. It's super easy to get rods, reels, line, tackle, and even bait at big box stores or online these days. However, when it comes to the intimate knowledge of striped bass fishing in the Napa River, the customer would have to invest hours of research and take a chance that what they buy at the big box store or online will work for the striper on the river.
Instead of taking this risk and wasting time and money, a customer who walks into Sweeney's Sports with this request will walk out with the precise gear, advice, and bait in hand. She will know where to fish, how to set up her rig, and put the right bait in front of hungry striped bass. Hooking one is the ultimate pleasure and adrenaline rush that would likely hook the customer on fishing for life.
In the process, the customer will retain 67% of everything she spends at Sweeneys in Napa, to benefit our local community.
But aren't small businesses' prices too high? This question takes us to the point #2.
#2. Shopping Online or at a Big Box Store isn't always cheaper.
If you are shopping for high-quality gear from brands like Yeti, Simms, Phenix Rods, Avet Reels, Okuma, Shimano, Sig Sauer, Glock, and many others, you'll find that often these brands price-protect many of their products. Price protection simply means that a manufacturer holds all of their dealers to a MAP pricing policy. As dealers, we are not allowed to sell these products below a certain price point. Dealers that violate this policy are at risk of losing their dealership with the manufacturer.
Let me give you an example. Let's say you are shopping for the Phenix Abyss PSX-808 Spinning Rod to fish for sturgeon, salmon, rockfish, giant carp, etc.
This is an exceptional rod that I personally own and love using any chance I get.
Go ahead and punch this into Google: "Phenix Abyss PSX-808". You'll find that the price of this rod online is $199.00 across all legitimate websites. Many websites will also add a shipping fee on top of this price.
Now, let's say you walk into Sweeney's and purchase this rod off the rack. Not only did you not spend more than you should, but you're also ready to fish right then and there. If you need other tackle, a line on your reel, a new reel, or advice on where to fish or what bait to use, etc., Sweeney's team has you covered as well.
The end game? You've had a chance to touch and feel the product in action, got your questions answered, and paid the same price you would in Walmart or on Amazon.
All this is nice, but here is another giant bonus for making the trip to Sweeney's. Approximately $133.30, or 67% of your $199 purchase price will stay to benefit the local community.
Some of us, however, sometimes think that name-brand products are too expensive and go in search of cheap knock-offs online. The mindset of this endeavor is:
"It's all made in China anyway, why pay more?" This question brings us to point #3.
#3. Name Brands vs. Cheap Knock-Offs
To better illustrate the point, I'll tell you a story. Before I purchased Sweeney's Sports in 2021, I experimented with launching an online fishing store. My heart was set on running an outdoor business. This is all I want to do at this point in my life, and I was determined. As a first order of business, I needed products to sell, but reputable brands and distributors wanted nothing to do with my online fishing store startup. My persistence didn't amount to anything. Every phone call, when I actually got in touch with someone, went something like this:
Me: May I please sell your products on my website?
Brand: We literally field hundreds of requests just like yours every month. How did you get through to me?
Me: I called your receptionist at least 10 times and eventually got transferred.
Brand: Admirable, but we only work with larger, reputable retail shops and online dealers. We don't have time or desire to ship tiny amounts of product for your startup. Do you have a storefront?
Brand: Do you have sales history with other reputable brands?
Me: No, but I started, grew, and sold businesses in the past. I know how to do it.
Brand: Once you have references, call us back. Best of luck. Goodbye.
After weeks of being shut down by literally every fishing brand I could think of, I decided on an alternative course of action: Alibaba, a Chinese-based wholesale marketplace. The selection and prices were amazing. Once I settled on the initial product line selection, I ordered and paid for a sample of rods, reels, line, and tackle from various brands unknown to me at the time. These brands sounded good, something like SunFish or TackleKing, etc. The logos looked professional and the equipment they sold had strong stat sheets, and good reviews, and it looked good in pictures.
The order arrived in a few weeks, and I gave a bunch of it away to friends for testing and feedback. At the same time, I took off on a multi-day fishing trip to test the newly arrived equipment. I went off the grid to chase after trout in the Sierras. Armed with my trusty GoPros, I made the first cast and my main line snapped. Not easily discouraged, I retied everything and proceeded with casting spoons, then fished powerbait, salmon eggs, worms, and rapalas. The spoons were too light and the action was wrong, the hooks needed sharpening and broke off, losing fish multiple times. The light trout rod was too stiff for the task, the leader line disintegrated and broke after a few bites, and the reels were too heavy for the size with a drag that was impossible to dial in.
The beautiful scenery was spoiled by the cheap knock-off fishing equipment that kept failing.
It only took a day of fishing for me to realize that I couldn't sell this stuff to customers. I cut my trip short and went back home. Talking to friends who used my test gear added insult to injury. The gear was shoddy and barely on the right side of serviceable.
Look, if my idea of fishing was a once-a-year affair of casting lures with my kids with no intention of catching anything, then this gear would likely suffice. As it was, this gear wouldn't suit me or my future customers, I decided.
Fishing is a spiritual journey for me. It's where I recharge the battery that drives my entrepreneurial engine. I love everything about it: the planning, the prep, the travel, the camaraderie, the water, and the crisp morning air, all punctuated by short, powerful adrenaline hits when the rod tip bends.
There was no way I would put my name on these products and sell them in my store. Once that decision was made, the rest is history.
Not only are these cheap knock-offs unsuitable for an angler of any repute they also pollute the environment and take away value from the American economy. Many of you would make the argument that reputable brands like Shimano and Daiwa also manufacture in China. And you wouldn't be wrong. The difference is the know-how, strict quality control, and distribution networks here in the US, which employ thousands.
As a wise saying goes, don't be penny wise and pound foolish. Buy quality brands at a fair price from your favorite local tackle shop and spend more time outdoors.
Shopping local is a sound financial decision and a firm vote for greater prosperity and higher quality of life for you and your local community.