San Francisco Chronicle, November 21, 2012
Bay Area consumers increasingly put their money where their homes are, as the “shop local” movement continues to gain traction. More people here and nationwide choose to spend their hard-earned cash on goods that are made and sold in their communities, part of a growing trend that’s transcended its grassroots origins to go mainstream. Cities, merchants and even giant American Express are all mobilizing to fuel the concept that shopping on Main Street bolsters communities.
Oakland, like other “shop local” communities, is armed with lots of economic arguments. Buying at independent stores circulates two to four times more revenue back into the local economy than buying at chains, research shows, because local merchants tend to buy their goods and services in the immediate region, donate to local charities, and, of course, hire locally.
“You send a ripple of economic benefits through other businesses in the community and support a lot of jobs,” said Stacy Mitchell, senior researcher at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a nonprofit focused on the issue. “With national chains, much of the money is sucked out of the community, other than fairly low-wage jobs at the stores.”
Beyond that are the intangible benefits of diverse, unique neighborhoods.
“People have more of a sense of wanting to live in distinctive communities,” Mitchell said. “The path of (big-box stores) leads us toward homogenization, where every place looks like every other place.”