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Why Buy Local?

May 11, 2012

While “buy local” movements have been gaining steam in the food arena, buying local construction supplies seems to be in the dark recesses of people’s consciousness’s. I’ve been trying to better understand just why that is. My thought on this is that home construction materials are bigger ticket items so while we may feel like supporting our communities when it doesn’t cost us much, we’re not willing to part with what we assume will be a lot of money in support of our community values. Most people assume that if they can get items cheaper on the internet than they can at the big box stores, they’re getting the best “deal”. And frankly, buying at the big box stores is better than buying from out of state, but did you know that when buying local, the economic impact of every dollar spent is over three times! But I’m going to surprise you here, I’m not going to suggest that the biggest reason to buy local is to help your community, although I support being a responsible community member, whatever the cost.

There are two personally impact-ful reasons to buy local:

Box stores are ONLY cheaper for stock items.

When you can walk into a big box store and buy a regularly stocked item, it’s going to be hard for a local store to compete with that. That being said, be very careful that it is a like-kind item. Some manufactures have been known to box up a product that looks the same, even has the same make and model label, but the way that the product is manufactured isn’t the same. Plumbing products from reputable manufacturers sold at big box stores have been known to have a plastic base instead of brass. You can feel the difference in the weight. These plastic bodied products will break much more easily and quickly.

Any items that have to be special ordered from your box store are most likely going to be more expensive. It’s where these stores make their money.

Your local distributors and show rooms provide valuable services that you are going to miss when they’re gone.

When we are shopping finished construction supplies, most people enjoy going into a show room so they can “try on” the merchandise. I highly recommend feeling a kitchen faucet to make sure that the shape of the handle feels good in your hand. It’s great to see just how far out into an average sink the water from a faucet will go. When looking at pictures online, it can be difficult to determine size and scale. Many people now go into stores, use their displays to gather information, use the show room personnel to provide information, and then leave to order the merchandise on the internet for a few dollars cheaper. Not only is this short sighted behavior, it’s also self- defeating behavior. By failing to support the showrooms, we fail to support our local economy. We also fail to support a resource that we have shown to be valuable, or we wouldn’t be in there. Would you choose to have a meal in a restaurant on the basis of getting bad service that you don’t have to pay for?

Even if you decided to leave your conscious behind when you clicked onto my website, you might want to think about something else that is going to impact you personally.

As a designer and/or contractor, if I have a problem with an item, I can reach out to that local supplier to go to bat for me with the manufacturer. The supplier has more buying power than me, I have more buying power than you. It’s why I get discounts, BTW. If a manufacturer gets a call from one of their vendors, from a contractor or from a homeowner, who do you think is going to get the fastest most satisfying service? I can give you a hint, it’s not the homeowner.

I wish I could say that the quality of finished lighting and plumbing fixtures has gone up since the recession and sales volume has gone down. Unfortunately, it’s far from the truth. Invariably, there are problems with materials and those problems are almost always found upon installation or with the passage of a little time.

So for self-serving reasons, you don’t want to lose the local show room the vendor supplies. If you don’t want to lose them, support your local businesses!

Do you have any stories or questions relating to this post? As always, we would love to hear from you.

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