In some communities, it seems as though large conglomerates have set up shop on nearly every street corner. Likewise, it feels as though e-commerce has replaced much of the beloved experience of in-person retail shopping. Despite these changes in a booming digital age where trends are driven by online marketing and social media, small businesses are still the backbone of local communities.
How Small Businesses Impact Local Economies
For years, many people relied on mega businesses for employment and financial opportunities. However, there now seems to be less dependence on them. As people tap into their creative passions and realize they can deliver quality products and services on their own, the number of small businesses in the United States has increased.
A small business is typically defined as a company with less than 500 employees. Since 1995, they’ve accounted for 64% of new American jobs. On average, these businesses add about two to three jobs annually. In general, small businesses contribute to a community’s quality of life, social atmosphere, and economic market. They also give buyers a chance to help their neighbors succeed. In many cases, a consumer can create a lasting connection with a business owner because of a mutual affinity for investing locally.
Small businesses are often better able to cater to the needs of their community because employees can make direct adjustments to inventory, processes, and strategies without consulting a complicated hierarchy. Additionally, owners tend to form unique relationships with residents, shoppers, and other businesses, which allow them to cater to a community’s wants and needs. Unfortunately, the same cannot always be said about the big box counterparts.
The Downside of Big Box Retailers
Over the past few decades, retailers and franchises with multiple locations across the country have made a large impact on the economy and landscape of many towns and cities. Though they do provide jobs and a convenient one-stop shop for many buyers, they also have some harmful qualities.
Large retailers tend to occupy anywhere from 50,000 to 250,000 square feet of space. Many of these buildings are built brand new, reducing the local natural resources and open land available for the wider community. In fact, 3,000 acres of farmland are lost to sprawl each year.
Additionally, it appears that developers of these big box sites don’t often take into consideration the accessibility for the community or pedestrians. With large parking lots and limited access from big roads, these sites can be inaccessible for public transportation.
Contrary to popular belief, large retailers tend to stimulate the local economy very little. For the most part, the products for sale are often produced abroad and bought wholesale. The money that residents pay for these products is largely put into the company coffers, instead of back into the community. Due to the nature of this business model, it appears that box stores contribute to and participate in the community less than local businesses.
Because of the overwhelming number of part-time jobs that big box stores offer, many employees receive little to no health care benefits. Plus, some retail workers are paid only minimum wage, which is inadequate for the current cost of living in the United States.
Big chains may offer familiarity, but the extent of their individuality often stops there. When these stores first started to appear, customers were likely enthralled with the possibility of doing all their shopping in one place. However, this consumerist mentality has led big boxers and their customers to buy in bulk, compromising quality for quantity. This, in turn, often leads to increased waste and landfill-dumping — neither of which helps a local community.
Make Your Dollar Count
A world without mom-and-pop shops would be sad and boring. Efforts such as Small Business Saturday encourage residents and visitors to invest in a neighborhood, and there are now more incentives to start shopping small. Not only does it offer a chance to break away from the big box stores, but it also offers plenty of other benefits. Check out our resource to learn more about what happens when you support small businesses.
This infographic was created by House of Webster, a contract food manufacturing company.