You hear “Turn Around Shop in Town” ads on the radio often, and even more so as we enter the holiday shopping season. They sound good. We all want to support our town, butShop Local.  does shopping in town really make a difference? Or are we just doing it to make ourselves feel good?

You can relax and shop locally with confidence knowing buying in town actually does have a significant economic impact for the Helena area. And, it has benefits for the shopper as well.

  Economic Return. Multiple studies conducted around the country show that there is a significant economic impact generated by supporting locally owned businesses rather than the “big box” stores. The American Independent Business Alliance reports that on average, 48 percent of each purchase at local independent businesses was recirculated locally, compared to less than 14 percent of purchases at chain stores. That adds up to a huge difference in creating local jobs and local wealth.

Supporting locally owned businesses has a ripple effect because those businesses in turn often support other locally owned businesses for both business and personal reasons, creating a positive cycle. Local businesses hire architects, designers, accountants, insurance brokers, advertising agencies, attorneys, and so on. This creates and maintains jobs in the community.

Local businesses create and help sustain vibrant town centers that help make Helena a fun place to live and a great place to visit, which brings in tourist dollars as well.

On a broader perspective, local stores in town centers require comparatively little infrastructure and make more efficient use of public services.

Perhaps the best news about supporting locally owned businesses is that you benefit, too.

Joining the “buy local” movement gives you a personal connection to the people behind the business and you feel a part of something. You celebrate when a favorite local business succeeds. You benefit by living in a community with a unique flavor that can only be created by a wide array of local businesses. National chains have a hard time being unique. By supporting your local businesses, you ensure that uniqueness is preserved as a part of your community.

Local businesses try harder and you benefit from great customer service. When you shop locally, you often deal with the owner or loyal employees who are connected to the owner. This means you get a personal approach and that any problems or issues are taken seriously and solved quickly.

You get to know the owner and the owner gets to know you. That means she knows the products you buy or the services you need on a regular basis and can tailor the inventory and services to you and the community. A multitude of small businesses, each selecting products based the needs of their local customers, guarantees a much broader range of product choices.

Helena businesses have been very generous giving back to the local community. Small business owners are more likely to “do good” for your community. Many support local causes, creating even more good within a community.

Why spend all that money on gas? When you consider travel time and the cost of fuel, shopping locally makes more sense than driving to Missoula or Billings. In addition, repeat customers who establish a rapport with a local business owner may find that such owners are more inclined to price match or work with loyal customers to find lower prices through suppliers.

Shop Small. Small Business Saturday is a great way to support your local businesses. This year’s event is Saturday, November 28. Find that special something right here in Helena!

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