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Economy / Business

Why Shopping Local in Tampa Bay Can Help You, And The Community

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Courtesy: Keep St. Petersburg Local
There's no trickle-down effect from patronizing big box stores, according to the founder and executive of "Keep St. Petersburg Local."

While Black Friday generally marks the start of the busy holiday shopping season, “Small Business Saturday" encourages people to support local companies.

But what does it mean to "buy local?" 

Olga Bof, founder and executive director of the independent business alliance "Keep St. Petersburg Local," says there's no "trickle-down" effect from patronizing big box stores.

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Credit Courtesy: American Independent Business Alliance
Graph shows economic return of independent stores vs. chains

"When you purchase something on Amazon, there is practically no money that is left in your community," Bof said. "Amazon does not help build an entrepreneurial community."

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Credit Courtesy: American Independent Business Alliance

But when people buy local, it's a different story.

"Everything kind of flows back into your community," Bof said. "Funding your schools, funding your fire department is the money that's left in the community via taxes. Amazon doesn't pay those kinds of taxes in our community. It doesn't employ all of the people that local businesses employ because small businesses are actually the largest employer of people in the country."  

According to Bof, local businesses provide the personal touch that's lacking in the big box stores.

"First of all, when you walk into a Target, there's nobody who greets you," said Bof, adding that even checkouts are self-serve. "There's no human interaction now. With the holidays coming up, a lot of people need guidance on that gift shopping."

Bof also says the convenience of online shopping can be matched at the local level.

"Reach out to your local businesses because they're there for you," Bof said. "You may actually get a same-day delivery from the business down the street if you just give them the business."

She says the dividends from that transaction offset any small increase in cost. "Maybe it's $1 more. But that dollar more is actually worth so much more to the community," she said. "If you don't buy local, it's bye-bye local."

And then there's the sense of character and charm that community businesses provide.

"So these local businesses that are closing in St. Pete, all these gems, people are like, 'Oh, gosh, but I love that place. Oh, that's such a shame.' And then you're like, 'When was the last time you walked in there?' It's been about two years. You know, people can't put food on the table if you're visiting that shop every two years."

What it all comes down to, Bof said, is a lifestyle and focus on neighborhood.

"We have so many options that ultimately it's about you living local," Bof said. "It's about thinking about your community first. Because each dollar you spend is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in and the people who you want to control it."

"The most important reason to support local is because our community matters and those businesses are owned by your friends, family and neighbors."

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Credit Courtesy: American Independent Business Alliance
Chart shows where your money goes in your community between independent stores, in-town chain outlets and online stores