Local Stores Buy Local, Build Support

December 24, 2009

Let’s turn to the next chapter in the saga of malls vs. local merchants, and foreign-owned chain supermarkets vs. independent grocers.

Let’s turn to the next chapter in the saga of malls vs. local merchants, and foreign-owned chain supermarkets vs. independent grocers. The underdogs with deep hometown roots are fighting back, and carving ways to convert the favorable local sentiment they enjoy into some cold, hard cash.

The burgeoning ‘buy local’ movement in food is one trend that smaller, independent food stores can turn in their favor. On one hand, they are likely to be more nimble, more familiar with the local supply chain (say, of produce growers), and more important to these suppliers. Also, consumers wanting to buy fresh and healthy enjoy the notion of foods brimming with nutrition because they’re right out of the ground. If these sources grow foods naturally or organically, that’s better still.

In Hardwick, Vermont, a remote town of 3,000, “businesspeople have focused on supplying more of the region’s local food needs by creating new markets for area farmers,” wrote The Christian Science Monitor, in a report on Michael Shuman’s book, The Small-Mart Revolution: How Local Businesses Are Beating the Local Competition. “Entrepreneurs have built infrastructure to turn local soybeans into tofu, for instance, and to age cheese for area cheesemakers. Such enterprises, along with growing businesses in related trades, account for as many as 100 new jobs” in this area.

The effort is admirable also because it keeps revenues local, and refortifies the Main Street economy. Especially in tough times like today, SupermarketGuru.com believes that people empathize with the plights of their neighbors and are willing to dig a little deeper in the spirit of community support. So what if local goods cost a bit more. It’s a mentality of us against them.

In Amesbury, Massachusetts, a town of 18,000 near Boston where an Amesbury First campaign will launch in spring 2010, five local restaurants already buy produce from the 145-acre Cider Hill Farm in this same area, and “tout their locally grown ingredients on menus,” the Monitor reported. The farmer, in turn, grows certain lettuce varieties to suit one eatery’s color preferences, and uses another local resource to turn its peaches into jellies.

When local grocers get similarly involved with their suppliers, and let shoppers know about it through messages in their circulars and in-store marketing, they earn credit for being good local citizens. The tangible goodwill makes shoppers feel better about buying these goods and supporting these stores.  Therefore, when it comes to these products at least, people count their pennies less and amply cover store operators for any higher costs—so the independents can continue to do the right thing, over and over again.