When is a bargain truly a bargain? Reflections on the value of shopping locally

By Maggie Fimia

Everyone loves a bargain. Some of us are seasoned “bargain hunters.” There is something uniquely satisfying about walking out of a store knowing you saved money and got something you’ll use. Some people even travel miles to save pennies. And while getting a “bargain” is mostly a good thing, in the case of doing it at the expense of our local business is a classic case of “Penny wise, Pound foolish.” Meaning, if you looked at total costs and total value, maybe it’s not such a deal after all.

So, let’s look at the true value of shopping locally.

Stephen Clifton, our City of Edmonds Director of Community Services & Economic Development, provided the following answers to my questions about our community businesses.

Q: With Petosa’s Family Grocer in the news lately, what are the advantages of having a grocery store in downtown Edmonds, especially in terms of being an “anchor” store?

A: While the public has many options when it comes to grocery stores within driving distance of their home, a downtown grocery store offers accessibility for those who do not own a car or chose to walk or ride a bicycle. Similar to schools, post offices, restaurants, etc., grocery stores serve as social gathering places making communities attractive places to live. They also serve as an important anchor helping attract people to live closer to downtown in addition to bringing additional customer traffic. Also, the more folks who are out and about, the safer a community.

Q: How do community businesses affect our City Budget?

A: Purchasing in Edmonds increases the City’s tax base. For every $100 spent at locally owned independent stores, $68 is returned to the local economy through taxes, payroll and other expenditures. This affects the ability of the City to pay for such services including public safety, fire, parks and recreation. (Source: 3/50 project)

Q: What impact do community businesses have on transportation and the environment?

A: Both residents and businesses save time by using services and shopping close to home.  Shopping locally reduces one’s carbon footprint by not driving long distances. Safe and effective pedestrian connectivity is key to helping people navigate their community and making for a more pleasurable experience.  This in turn helps to encourage walking.

Q: Doesn’t a City need a major business to create jobs?

A: Small businesses create half of the jobs in the private sector. [They] have created 65 percent of the net new jobs over the last 17 years.  Individuals can help our economy by shopping at small businesses, thus helping create jobs. (Source: U.S. Small Business Administration)

Q: Are there any other reasons were getting more value from dollars spent in the community?

A: – Locally-owned firms contribute more to local charities and fundraisers than do their national counterparts. (Source: Anderson Study of Retail Economics, Chicago, IL – Oct. 2004)
– Local businesses support other local businesses. Local firms purchase or use local goods and services at more than twice the rate of chains.  (Source: Anderson Study of Retail Economics, Chicago, IL – Oct. 2004)
– Local businesses help create a community’s unique culture. The unique character of Edmonds is what brings people to, and keeps people in, this community.
– Competition and diversity results in more choices.
– Local business owners invest in the community and have a vested interest in the future of this community.

Thanks to Stephen for taking the time to answer my questions. I think Warren Buffet sums it up perfectly:  “Price is what you pay.  Value is what you get.” So next time your looking for a bargain, you really don’t have to look further than our local stores including Petosa’s Family Grocer and all the other wonderful businesses located in Edmonds from downtown to Highway 99 and in between!

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