Buying Local

Just one of the many things I’ve been pondering lately.

I guess there are many ways to define buying local. Most people, when they say they support Buying Local, mean buying from locally-owned stores. This keeps the money in their community, they say. Here’s an article I found about buying local. I’m going to dismiss #4, #5, #6, #9, and #10 outright. Not that they’re not partly true, but because they’re broad generalizations. Many locally-owned stores, for example, are located in new developments in West Des Moines, and while local stores may be MORE LIKELY to have better service, my personal experience has been pretty hit or miss regardless of where I shop.

So, from that list, that leaves us with 4 bullet points that essentially say, “shop local, keep the money in your community” and 1 that says “keep our community unique.”

Now, a bit of a journey. Come with me through the winding path of my mind.

I have been puzzling over whether it still makes sense to “buy local” when the goods one is buying from the locally-owned store are not produced locally, but are instead purchased from out of state or out of country and trucked here. How is buying a SIGG bottle from Campbell’s, for example, different from/better than buying a SIGG bottle from Target (if Target sold them) or from

I’m not sure I buy that “more money stays local.” Target employs local workers – tons of them – who spend their money in our community, just as Campbell’s employs a fair number of people, who also spend their money in our community. Target and Campbell’s both buy their good from out of state, so all THAT money leaves our community. Our local Target store, of course, kicks money up to their corporate office, and Campbell’s does not, so there’s that.

Campbell’s is probably more likely to employ local services like cleaning, accounting, etc., but there’s no real promise there. Plenty of locally-owned stores hire national firms for cleaning, accounting, payroll, whatever.

But, if local stores carried mainly locally-produced goods, there would not be much diversity in what we could buy.

Additionally, how many locally-produced goods are really all that local?? For example, Wallypop stuff. I put them together here, from fabric produced overseas or on the east coast. Sling hardware comes from Arizona. Thread comes from God knows where. Lamination done in New Jersey. I’d do it all locally, but there just aren’t fabric mills in Iowa. There aren’t industry-best sling hardware manufacturers here. So I bring it to me. So how does that make Wallypop stuff any better, from the “localism” standpoint than Bummis? It’s an interesting question.


When it comes down to it, by MY figuring, it is marginally better to buy nonlocal goods from local stores than it is to buy those same goods from National Chain stores.

But it REALLY makes sense to try to buy locally-produced goods, and the more locally-produced, the better.(Wallypop: locally produced from nonlocal products. Better than Bummis, which is not local at all.)

Where it REALLY pays off is buying services that are locally-owned. instead of Geek Squad, for example.


One response to “Buying Local

  1. You are correct that Zanzibar’s coffee is no more “local” than Starbucks’. However, I still prefer to buy local.

    Profits are a small portion of the cost of whatever you’re buying, but it is better for the community when profits stay local instead of getting kicked up to corporate HQ.

    Locally-owned businesses are more likely to do charitable things like sponsor high school teams and clubs (some big chains have fundraisers for schools, but it usually depends on families buying lots of products from them).

    Cultural institutions like the science center, arts and music suffer when local companies get bought out. Younkers and Pioneer used to do a lot more in terms of charitable gifts in central Iowa before they were bought out by Saks and DuPont, for instance. Now that the company senior executives don’t live in the Des Moines area, they don’t care what happens here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s