Buy local (unless you can’t)

David DeCristoforo is 100 percent correct in last Friday’s blog on buying local and how it helps the economy. But what happens if you can’t – is the bad economy your fault?

There’s no question that buying patterns have changed. Big Box stores are king now because their prices are hard to beat, and their inventory exceeds most local stores, depending on what you’re looking for. I suspect that David was talking about woodshops – if you want cabinets, you’ll always get better items that are more cost effective (and custom!) than off-the-shelf stuff at the Big Box.

That’s fine for cabinets, because even where I live in Middleofnowhere, W.Va., there are several fine cabinet and millwork shops. But what if I need quality art supplies, or a full-fledged camera shop, or a top-notch hand plane? I won’t find any of those things locally, and all three are categories of things I need to buy with some regularity. For those art supplies, I’ll go to a Big Box craft store chain. For a quality camera, I have little choice but to go to Amazon for one. For a quality hand plane, I buy it either directly from the source or a major online woodworking supplier. The bottom line is that I’m not “buying local” for any of those things, so does that make me a bad person?

There’s also the aspect of cost. I have a very good camera; I need it for woodworking photography. The camera I have, at the time I bought on Amazon, would have cost $231 more at a regular retail camera store, if we had one. But the truth is that even if we did, I couldn’t possibly have been able to buy it. Either way, I wouldn’t have gotten it there, because my family’s personal economy would have suffered.

I wish I had bags of money so I wouldn’t have to worry about how much things cost and where I can afford to purchase. But the fact is that I don’t, and I have to get what I need where I can.



  • Al says:

    I beg to differ on the cost of items at big box stores. I avoid them whenever possible, and sometimes even at higher cost to me. In my area the local lumber yard and hardware store consistently beat the big box stores on price, quality, and variety of items professionals need. Even the local auto parts store beat the big box on the cost of a new battery for my truck. I got an approximately 20% discount because “he’s in here all the time”. It pays to get known by local business owners. They can adjust the cost when they want to for who they want to. In the big box stores the price is the price. Do you want to contribute to the big box CEO’s bonous? I don’t. Buy local, it will pay in the long run.

  • Al is correct, many times the big box stores are actually more expensive! Not to mention that they have absolutely nobody who even knows what they sell or how well it actually works! I am very involved with our local Chamber of Commerce and we have a very successful “buy local” program in effect and it has been a great thing for our local family owned businesses, myself included.

    However, there are times and always will be times when you simply have to buy on-line or from an out of town source. It doesn’t make you a bad person if you buy on-line! One of the problems with specialized needs is that the demand on a local basis often is so low that a local source can’t afford to offer the item from stock. Also we can thank the big box stores for destroying the local art supply stores, lumberyards, camera shops and hardware stores by selling only the top 20% of items that make up 80% of the local needs. When the local sources dry up and go out of business we have little choice but to shop on-line. For example, I used to have a great local hardware source, I could throw the strangest requests at them and they always delivered! But when first Lowes and later Home Depot came to town a lot of the contractors started buying at those places because they offered 180 days same as cash. Well little by little the local guy lost ground and finally threw in the towel, retired and moved to Florida.

    Buy local when you can and when you really can’t don’t sweat it!

    C J Struthers

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