National and multinational chains and mega stores continue to displace locally owned businesses. This trend is occurring not only in the Macarthur area, but throughout much of the country and much of the world as well. The perception is that larger corporate entities provide a better value for the consumer, in time and money. But is this the reality? Here are ten factors to consider:
1. Jobs and wages
Larger companies often tout the number of jobs they may create in a community where they take root. Studies show, however that these corporations displace as many jobs as they create. Moreover, locally owned businesses often supply more stable and secure employment with better wages and benefits. They also hire local solicitors, accountants, consultants and contractors.
2. Local economic boost
More often than not, when the chain comes to town, it simply shifts any tax revenue streams from smaller businesses to itself. Rarely do tax revenues increase significantly. Further, monies spent at the chain then migrate to corporate headquarters, rather than being spent locally. Contrast this with the small business with its roots in the community. The owner and his or her employees will plough dollars back into other neighbourhood concerns.
3. Community character and well-being
Locally owned businesses help communities stay strong. They preserve social and economic relationships, and often give to non-profits and local charities, contributing to their neighbours.
4. Local prosperity
When a city or town maintains its culturally distinctive look, it tends to attract consumers looking for that experience. In a world where plain vanilla is becoming the norm, the variety offered by local entrepreneurs is a plus.
5. Decisions made at a local level
It’s common sense that if decisions about a company’s plans, expansions, or operations are made in-town rather than at some far distant corporate headquarters, the local environs are better served.
6. Benefits of entrepreneurship
As economies shift from manufacturing to service to information-providing, middle-class jobs are disappearing from not only MacArthur, but across the country and the world as well. Aside from specific occupations such as healthcare or engineering, the new paradigm for achieving and maintaining a good standard of living and beyond is entrepreneurship.
7. Better for the environment
Local shops and merchants are often walk-able, or accessible by public transportation. Big box retailers tend to locate outside city centres, where land is more available in large chunks and is less costly. This leads to greater environmental costs and poor sustainability.
8. Competition benefits the public
When a powerful few determine our options, price shopping becomes more problematic. Basic economic theory tells us that all are better served when a multitude of providers are available.
9. More providers means more products and services
While a single independent store may not carry as many products as one big box or chain retailer, a multiplicity of independent shops offer the consumer the best variety. We have seen the effect of domination by multinationals affecting our choices in news sources, books and music. The existence of smaller, more numerous and more nimble players in the marketplace generates more options for the customer. The local, independent merchant can also pay closer attention to the tastes and preferences of his neighbourhood.
10. Monies spent locally stay local
Numerous studies confirm that purchases made with local merchants are returned back into the community at more than three times the rate of purchases from a chain store. This creates a multiplier effect in the local economy, resulting in a more vibrant business base and community.
Local business owners often invest their life savings in their businesses, and have a vested interest in seeing their community thrive. We all enjoy the character that independent shops add to our neighbourhood, but sometimes forget that our patronage ensures their survival. As we mindfully reflect upon where we spend our dollars, we need to understand the full consequences of our actions, and how this bodes for the future of our town or city.