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Buy Local, Should Be More Than A Slogan

In Business, Economy, Education, Health, Jobs, Local News, Opinion, Senior Lifestyle, sociology, Uncategorized on September 26, 2012 at 8:01 am


By Gery L. Deer

We hear the phrase constantly – buy local. But regardless of how much encouragement comes from public service announcements, most people still buy what they need from large, corporate chain stores. From toilet paper to breakfast cereal, local markets have always had a difficult time competing with companies like Walmart, Target and Meijer.

Since the start of the recession, local chambers of commerce and other civic groups have tried to get people to switch from big box buying to shopping at the locally-owned retailer. As money belts tightened, those messages were falling on more deaf ears than ever before.

Money in a particular community is a bit like blood in a body, it has to circulate to do any good. Money moves around a region from business to consumer and back, over and over again. That’s how the economic system works. Buying from out-of-town based companies moves the money out of the area. Buying local keeps more (not all) of the money in the community.

Many argue that they simply can’t afford to shop locally because of significantly higher prices. Others complain that local companies lack the product selection or expertise of larger merchants. A family struggling to make ends meet and feed a couple of kids can’t pay $4 for a box of breakfast cereal at a local vendor, when Walmart has it for $2. For them, every dollar counts and the extra five minutes they drive is worth the time and gas if it means there is significant savings at the bottom of the sales receipt.

Prices are lower at chain stores because of mass buying and selling. For example, for every bottle of ketchup a small grocery store sells, companies like Walmart sell hundreds of thousands more. It’s a simple matter of volume. A small business lacks the massive reach and bulk buying power afforded to big companies and therefore has to pay more for products, passing that higher price along to customers at the cash register.

Some small shops lower prices on one aisle, like on every-day necessities such as bread, cereal, soap, and so on, while keeping prices higher on extravagancies to counter the difference. Many already offer a generic alternative to most products or a store brand, the quality of which is often superior to the national offerings.

In the end, it’s up to the consumer to pay attention and do a little homework to see what’s out there and comparison shop. Most large, chain stores will price match nowadays. But nothing is more infuriating than to see someone in Walmart trying for a price match with a coupon from a local store offering a cheaper alternative. Why not just shop at the local retailer and get the deal they’re offering while keeping the money in the community?

Of course, it could be easily argued that big-box stores should be welcomed rather than refuted since they employ more people and pay more taxes to small communities. Valid points of course, but what happens when corporate decides to move the store or shut it down? The collateral damage can be economically devastating.

It should be emphasized also that this problem is not limited to groceries and sundries. Service companies like law offices, insurance providers, carpet layers and even accountants struggle to retain clients, even after years of service. These kinds of businesses are based on trust, relationships and personal referrals, concepts that may have escaped the younger generations who opt, instead, for the online approach or more “progressive” options.

Buying local needs to be more than just a slogan offered up by politicians in tough economic times. Government can’t and won’t save the local economy. It requires a joint effort between consumers and businesses. Consumers need to tell local retailers what they want; Retailers, listen to customers and take action to keep them.

Buying local strengthens a community’s economy against downturn and protects jobs. So, take your next shopping trip to the local grocer and phone your nearest insurance agent for a competitive quote. You might be surprised at what you learn.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and WDTN-TV2, Living Dayton business contributor. More at http://www.gerydeer.com


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A Half-Century of Walmart. Economic Savior or Evil Empire?

In Business, Economy, Entertainment, Jobs, Local News, National News, Opinion, Politics, Senior Lifestyle, sociology, Uncategorized on July 2, 2012 at 10:25 pm

Singer, songwriter Jessica Frech’s satirical music video, “People of Walmart” has attracted more than 6 million viewers, and probably offended just as many. (Jessica is in the upper left square of this screen shot from her video.)

By Gery L. Deer

Deer In Headlines

Most people don’t realize that Walmart is the world’s largest private employer. According to a recent article in Time magazine’s business section, only the U.S. Department of Defense andChina’s People’s Liberation Army employ more people than Sam Walton’s massive dynasty of discount. On July 2, Walmart turned the half-century mark of rolling back prices and shaking up the competition.

On that date in 1962, Sam opened the very first Walmart store inRogers,Arkansas. Fifty years and four-thousand, three-hundred-ninety-nine stores later, the chain employs more than 2.1 million people and sets the standard by which other budget retailers are measured.

Along with those who appreciate Walmart’s contributions toAmerica’s economy, there are equally as many who regard it as an evil, impersonal, corporate monster. And they may be correct, after all, it would have been impossible to become the discount retail leader without doing some damage to the competition and holding fast to as much of its own money as possible along the way to get there.

Impenetrable by unions and continually slammed by the liberal left, the bargain behemoth continues to rake in the cash, bringing in a whopping $443 billion last year. Revenue like that must please the company’s shareholders, who, ironically, are probably the last people to set foot in one of its stores (at least while someone’s looking).

But what is Walmart, really? Is it evil? Or, is this just the price that has to be paid for corporate efficiency and unprecedented business growth? Do small towns really dry up and blow away when Walmart moves in?

The pros and cons of Walmart are probably more a matter of perspective than fact. Walmart shoppers are hard to categorize, but the common image is the middle to lower class, interested in getting the lowest price possible on toilet paper while caring nothing about the environment in which it is sold to them.

Well if you believe singer, songwriter Jessica Frech’s point of view in her satirical YouTube music video, People of Walmart, shoppers simply cannot be categorized. They come in every shape, size, color and creed, from every socioeconomic background and lifestyle. They come at every hour of the day and night in search of, well, a great deal on whatever it is they need.

It’s worth mentioning also that many Wallyworlders found Jessica’s music video terrifically offensive because it uses actual photos of Walmart shoppers in their native habitat. Even so, People of Walmart has been watched by more than 6.1 million viewers. People of Walmart 2, released last November, already has more than 1.6 million views. Apparently people weren’t that offended.

The economic effects by Walmart on local communities are as mixed as its clientele, probably more so than people generally know. According to a 2009 study, most negatively affected by the big box giant are those mom-and-pop retailers selling products in direct competition, such as small, higher-priced grocery, clothing and dry-goods stores.

The research also indicated that retailers offering products and services not available from Walmart tend to do better if in close proximity because people are already prepared to spend the money.

As for Walmart’s overall effect on and property values, new research released by the National Bureau of Economic Research startled the company’s critics. A 2001-2006 study of 159 new Walmart stores found that homes within a half-mile of each actually increased in value as much as 3-percent. Local tax revenue also increases substantially.

Like it or not, Walmart is here to stay. Anytime a business or an individual is successful, they will always have critics and even enemies. Fifty years ago, it’s doubtful that Sam Walton could have imagined what his small shop would eventually become.

Today his company provides jobs, affordable food and clothing, and the most unusually diverse array of patrons any retailer could imagine. So, happy birthday Walmart! Keep the rollbacks coming and, please, could someone fix the wheel on that one shopping cart that just won’t roll when you’re in a hurry?