Millennials are the first generation on the planet to have grown up completely and totally connected to the world through a screen. And now, as they get older and find good -paying gigs, they are also the first generation to be targeted by algorithms and then inundated with online advertising for instant-ship goods that magically show up on their doorstep by trains, planes and automobiles (and drones) in almost the blink of an eye. I’ll give it to millennials –full disclosure: I being one of them– they are also some of the most inquisitive, caring and mindful consumers out there. They were raised with the ability to use the Internet to do the research about what they are getting before they get it — online, to read reviews about products or services from peers around the world — online, and most notably, to find the best deal they can — online. So, the question was raised to me, if I can find it online for less… why buy local? It’s a valid question from any deal-minded shopper; Why not go where the best deal is?
The “shop local” counter-point for this question has always been: “Who says the best deal isn’t in a local shop?” But, I’m not sure that quite covers it anymore. As retailers and service providers alike struggle to keep up with pricing in a buy-it-for-pennies-from-China world, sometimes it is true that a local shop will have a higher price than one posted on Amazon or at a box store. Pricing in a local store has so many more considerations: rent, staff, hydro bills, charitable donations, smaller buying power, etc… What deal-friendly millennials need to understand (and I would argue that a lot of them do) is that when they pay $5 more for an item at a local shop, they are paying for more than just the product. They are paying for the expertise of a store owner who often has decades of experience in their field. They are paying for the opportunity to pose their questions about the product or service to a real person. They are paying for the opportunity to hold someone accountable for an item that might not work quite as they’d hoped. They are paying for the experience of shopping in a community-driven store that actually cares about whether or not they are buying the right thing, not the easy thing. They are paying for the convenience of not having to pack up that easy (but inevitably wrong) item to ship it back for a return. They are paying to keep a store that will one day sponsor their kid’s hockey team in business.
Yes, you’re not always going to be able to find everything you want locally (that Grumpy Cat ugly Christmas sweater just never made it into a shop near you), and that’s okay. The message here is when you have the option, buy locally. Do your research online and then head out to a local store. And I beg of you, do not do the opposite — research in-store and then buy it online. That’s just criminal.