Saturday, November 26, 2016

Local Saturday - Is Local Always Best?

Small Business Saturday, the day after Black Friday in the United States, has become bigger business, I suspect, than its founders ever hoped for.

Here is a post I first wrote in December of 2011, three months after devastating floods hit portions of upstate New York, including the neighborhood where I live..  I have updated it slightly.  Sadly, the buying dilemma - local business selling imported goods vs. national business selling local goods - still continues.

For example, our local shopping mall has a seasonal business called Shop 607. (607 is our phone area code.) I've bought from them before, and was pleased by the quality of items made by local artisans.  But, this year, I found a number of items for sale by the local businesses that were not made in New York State.  In fact, one item for sale was made in San Francisco - which is about 2,800 miles (4500 km) from where the mall is located in Johnson City, New York.  (If anyone from Shop 607 wishes to contact me, I would be pleased to expand on my disappointment.)
One Display on Small Business Saturday, November 26, 2016
Hence the title of this post: Is Local Always Best?  The edited 2011 post follows:


It's a very popular thing right now to "Buy American":  we must maintain our manufacturing base, and save jobs for Americans.  I've been trying to "buy local" (or at least "Made in the U.S.A.") for several years now.

But sometimes the choice is hard.

When we visited the State of Maine in September of 2011, we were impressed by the pains the people of Maine took to promote items "made in Maine".  There were a number of stores in the Portland and Brunswick, ME areas specializing in Maine-made merchandise:  everything from mustard to Poland Springs water and vodka to blankets to balsam pillows to toothpaste.  Supermarkets featured local foods and beverages in special displays.

But we also found that enough of the merchandise in a Maine institution, Renys, A Maine Adventure, was not made in the U.S.A.

Too many times now, people who want to do right by their fellow Americans face a choice:

Buy merchandise not made in the United States from a local business?

Or buy American from a national chain?

Back in November of 2011, I wanted to "buy local" in light of the devastating floods that hit our part of upstate NY in September but I am finding that choice isn't so simple.

On Black Friday 2011, we found an area rug in our local Kohl's, on a great sale, and proudly made by Mohawk in the U.S.A.

But in a local gift store in nearby Owego, a town hard hit by the flood, we tried our best to replace Christmas ornaments destroyed in the flood - and found that the majority of the ornaments - and all the patriotic ornaments - were made in China.

Should we have skipped the rug because it was being sold by a large national chain? (no, we bought it.)

Should we have passed on the China-made Christmas ornaments? (this one was harder but we did buy some.)

What about the local Home Depot?  National chain, blocks from our house, hit hard by the flood of September 8, 2011; reopened the day before Thanksgiving.  On Black Friday we were there at 5:05 a.m., passing under a sign saying "Welcome Back, Friends!".  The store was mobbed, and I would bet that some of those employees welcoming us had lost their homes in the flood.  They would have lost their jobs, too, if Home Depot had "hung it up".  (we still try to buy in a locally owned hardware store when possible but some of those Black Friday specials were irresistible.)

These decisions come nearly every day.  Today, I needed a new dish drainboard - and I ended up buying a made in U.S.A. product from Sterlite, in a national chain store (Target). The price was slightly higher than the Rubbermaid (made in China) but I gladly paid it.  But still, it wasn't from a small business. 

In other words, this decision - like so much in life - isn't that simple.  All I can hope is that I make the right decisions with my hard earned shopping dollars.


What do you think?

Day 26 of NaBloPoMo.

16 comments:

  1. There is one local garden store that really promotes today for shopping local. But I don't know of any decorations they sell that are actually made locally. It is just buying from them versus ordering it on Amazon. I just buy what I need and like versus worrying about where it came from or where I buy it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Many reasons why I do try to buy local - among them, he jobs of family members may depend on it. But you are right, a lot of local businesses do not sell locally made stuff. Hence, the dilemma.

      Delete
  2. It's hard isn't it? I was shopping in a touristy area that is local. Okay, the store is "local" but the stuff, like Vera Bradley items, are not.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, that dilemma. Happy that I'm not the only one trying to figure it all out.

      Delete
  3. This dilemma is going on in India as well. India exports high quality tea and coffee to other countries and Idian market will only have second quality. Many electronic goods are imported to India from China giving a big competetion to local manufacturers with their cheap price. Its hard to decide sometimes

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's good to know, in a way,that there are others facing the same dilemma. When I lived in Florida years old (a state that grows many of America's juice oranges) you could not get a decent orange in the store. They all were imported out of the state.

      Delete
  4. We had a lovely little farmers' market today. Everything sold was very, very local. I admit that I don't really worry much about whether or not the stuff that I buy is local, except for food. I do prefer to buy my eggs from a local farmer and my honey from a local beekeeper. The closer you are to your food source, the fresher your food is. In food, it does make a difference, but, in other stuff, no, not so much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with food. For certain other items - it may be a matter of keeping local jobs, if you are in an area where certain items are manufactured.

      Delete
  5. This reminds me of the time of the British when boycotting foreign goods and using Indian products was part of the freedom struggle. But of course the case is different now. There is a similar situation in India. Like Ramya said, the import of goods into the country brings tough competition for the Indian manufacturers. It isn't easy to choose yes, it depends on our needs .

    P.S - I've nominated you for the versatile blogger award. Here's the link
    http://dashyspeaks.blogspot.in/2016/11/being-versatile.html
    Feel free to accept it or not. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Americans can be self centered and I thank you for reminding us all (you and Ramya) that other countries face the same dilemma. We have, after all, a world wide economy we all depend on.

      Delete
  6. Like anything, I think shopping requires balance, part of which is negotiating the not so black-and-white parts of taking that journey. I don't shop any of of the designated shopping days (Black Friday, Cyber Monday), not in protest, but mainly because I'm busy with other things. When I do shop, I'll start local, but I expand from there. I would never shame anyone for succumbing to an irresistible deal in a chain store or for buy a "Made in that other place" product, especially if it's rarely made anywhere else or that "other place" makes the best ones.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am too much of a Black Friday addict - it's good to have balance. And, like you, I wouldn't shame anyone shopping at a chain store. In fact, I admit to shopping at Home Depot on Black Friday because the employees are always so friendly and make you feel they really appreciate you-even to greeting early shoppers with coffee and donuts holes.

      Delete
  7. Because the local stores are small businesses (probably), so they have to get merchandise from where they can. But you're still supporting local if you buy locally made stuff at a big chain store. Yep, that is a dilemma.

    I guess it's about buying what you need. But being conscious of it.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Encouraging local produce especailly when its handmade/keeps alive a tradition or art or is organically grown - must be all patronised and made to flourish. Consumerism is eating away the core of our earth thanks to our relentless chasing of "imported" goods but in reality home grown is always best.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I shop local if i can afford it. living on a monthly budget at times i must choose otherwise or go with out. i also choose to buy things made in the USA. As that helps the USA out in the long run compared to other countries.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Yes, I'm in Maine and I've seen the dilemma you mentioned many times. I'm actually a member of the Mainemade crafts organization. It's unfortunate that many times the local and US-made items cost more than foreign-made ... yet they're often made better, so they're worth it in the long run.

    ReplyDelete

Hello! I welcome comments, as long as they are civil, are on topic, and do not contain profanity, advertising of any kind or spam. Any messages not meeting these criteria will immediately be composted, and my flowers will enjoy their contents.