Below is my opinion editorial that ran in today’s State:
I hope Kristy Eppley Rupon’s recent story about the pending demise of three locally owned hardware stores (“Hammered: The Great Recession,” Aug. 23) opened some eyes to a problem that has been developing for some time.
The owners of these and other hardware stores interviewed by Rupon pointed to competition from big-box retailers and the recession as causing hard times for them. Nationally, sales in this retail sector are down 6 percent in 2009, and more than 500 locally owned hardware
stores and home centers have shuttered since 2005.
We can expect more of the same unless the economy dramatically improves or behavior changes. And since the national economy is a little out of the individual’s control, we need to focus on changing behavior.
Owners are doing their part, changing locations, using social media, but they can’t make enough changes alone to save this slice of Americana. As one store owner lamented after an encounter with a customer who clearly had come there only after failing to find the needed product at big-box stores, “Sometimes they just take for granted that we’re always going to be here.”
Unfortunately, our small businesses will not always be here unless we, the consumers, change our buying behavior. It is not just locally owned hardware stores that are struggling and disappearing: All small businesses are facing the same extreme challenges to survive.
The S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce has launched an initiative to raise the awareness of consumers to the opportunities and the need to shop outside big-box or corporate-owned businesses. Our BuySC campaign isn’t asking consumers to completely abandon shopping at big-box stores. That horse already has left the barn.
The goal of BuySC is to increase consumer shopping at locally owned businesses by only 15 percent. That might translate into only one less trip to Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, Target or Kroger a month for most people.
Achieving this goal will put more money into our local economy — money that will circulate many times over, buying other local goods and services instead of being sent out of state to a corporate headquarters using one of those too-big-to-fail banks.
To help consumers find goods and services from locally owned businesses, we are creating BuySC.org, a free, on-line directory of businesses vetted for this purpose. Arranged by county and by business category, BuySC.org offers consumers the ability to find locally owned businesses asking for their business.
BuySC.org listings are free to locally owned small businesses. Instructions for being listed can be found on the site, by calling (803)252-5733 or by sending a message to Stephanie@scsbc.org.
Consumers have the power to build their local economies. We can sit back and hope that state officials will successfully attract a big business to the area to create hundreds of jobs. Or we, each and every one of us, can take action starting today to help our locally owned small businesses create those same numbers of jobs — jobs that won’t be shipped overseas and that will foster a sustainable local economy. Join the BuySC campaign, and take control of your local economy.