What It Means To "Keep It Local"

Apr 1, 2014

Credit alice_henneman

Customers have more choice than ever, with national retailers, local stores, and now internet shopping. Assignment Radio’s Madeline Stebbins examines the effects of local shopping in Norman.

The “shop local” movement has gained momentum the last few years. But beyond the hype, past the fad – does shopping local really matter?

Bryce Bandy:  Up to three times as much of the money stays in your community when you spend it with a local and independent business, as opposed to a big box or a franchise.

Bryce Bandy is one of the founders of Keep It Local OK, an Oklahoma City company designed to publicize local businesses. Keep It Local OK sells membership cards, and local businesses, shops and restaurants offer discounts or deals to the cardholders.

Bandy: How we see it is, we give people the tools and the incentives to spend money locally. Not only that, but also show them the best places to eat, shop, services to use here in Oklahoma.

Research tends to show that spending money in your own city, and at businesses owned locally, can make a big difference. A study done in 2012 in Salt Lake City … a city about the same size as the Oklahoma City metro … shows that local stores return more than half of their revenue to the local economy – and restaurants return nearly 79%. National chains return less than half of what local businesses do – for stores, it’s less than 15%, and for restaurants it’s just over 30 percent.

Don Wood is the director of the Norman Economic Development Coalition. He works to keep Norman businesses happy and productive.

Wood: We work on product improvement, and our produce is Norman. Anything we can do to make Norman a better place, a more attractive place for people to come to, then we do that.

Wood says that Norman benefits from out-of-state employers, but its locally-owned businesses bring more than just jobs to the table.

Wood: There’s a certain passion that the young entrepreneur has starting their company and growing their company, and there’s a passion they have for the community that the other companies that come in from outside probably never get. They don’t have that same passion, that same drive to help make the community successful at the same time.

Wood says consumers might not realize it, but frequenting a local store has a bigger effect than just supporting the family that owns that business.

Wood: They’re employing people, and those could be your neighbors, could be people in your church, could be people you see around the community that actually have jobs because you’re spending dollars in the community. Those dollars kind of circulate in the community and they’re spent with another business and another business and another business, and it really has a multiplier effect.

There are two kinds of shopping local – shopping at stores owned by people in the community, and shopping at stores in town, no matter who owns them. Locally-owned businesses get most of the shop-local attention, but Don Wood says keeping your money within city limits is just as important.  

Wood: The way Oklahoma law is set up, the biggest generator of revenues to our local government is sales tax. So if you’re spending your dollars in a local store, then that local store is paying sales tax and that’s what pays for firemen and policemen and street repair and parks and recs and all the other things that we expect our city to do. It’s kind of hard to expect the city to do a lot for you when you go spend all your dollars outside of Norman.

There are benefits to both kinds of shopping local, and they have one thing in common: local stores need local customers. And for Don Wood and others, buying local is more than just a trend – it’s becoming a way of life.

Wood: It’s a no-brainer.