I recently read an article titled “No, It’s Not OK to Buy Vinyl at Urban Outfitters” in it Judy Mills, owner of Kansas City’s Mills Record Company, asserts that purchasing records at a national chain rather than an independent store hurts the experience. While I don’t own a record player…yet…her article stuck with me for days. Why? She perfectly explained how I feel about shopping at locally owned grocery stores.
More and more grocery shoppers are falling into two camps: Expedition or One Stop Proximity Shoppers. Expedition shoppers will travel to their preferred food destination, they pick a store they perceive to be superior in either shopping experience or products offered, think Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Sprouts Markets. One Stop Proximity shoppers are there to get what they need and go. They’re likely to head to a Wal-Mart or Target because it’s close and they can get everything i.e. grocery, health and beauty, home décor, clothing in one place.
But why can’t we have both? We can, and do in the independent retailer. What they offer is a blend of one stop shop and food destination while being a real part of the larger community. One-stop shoppers would argue that I spend a bit more on groceries and STILL have to go to another store. However, that isn’t the case. I can buy my home essentials and health/beauty items along with my weekly groceries. Maybe I don’t walk out with new shoes but I really didn’t need that pair of shoes. The Expedition Shoppers may say I don’t have the selection or quality of experience that I might get at a specialty store. Although my shopping list isn’t exotic, it can be a bit extensive and I’ve rarely, if ever, had an issue getting everything I need for a normal week in my home store. I can get organic, natural, items and the limited edition seasonal Oreos. I also get to know the individuals in the departments at my store. They know me and can recommend items new in the store or things I might enjoy based on prior buying behavior or conversations.
Do I spend more on grocery items at an independent retailer? Maybe. But Mills argues, and I agree, that I’m not frivolously spending that extra dollar. I’m investing in a community, in a lifestyle. I am a locavore. I choose to support businesses that show a commitment to my community because they are part of it. As the locavore movement grows, independent retailers have the opportunity to attract a new type of consumer. One that shops at an independent retailer not based on price or convenience but like me, out of loyalty to the businesses rooted in my own community.
And I think I can use the money I save from not walking into Target for deli meat and walking out with a new wardrobe on that record player, bought from a locally owned shop, of course.