Don’t let shifting consumer preferences fool you: retail is alive and well. Through e-commerce and brick-and-mortar stores, the retail industry continues to prevail year in and year out. In fact, an estimated two-thirds of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) comes from retail consumption. So long as resources are available to produce and manufacture goods, somebody somewhere will be prepared to buy them. In recently history, industry powerhouses have predominantly consisted of big-box stores, such as Sam’s Club and Target. More recently, however, consumers have strayed away from chains in favor of local businesses, often owned and operated by their very own friends, family and neighbors.
In this new wave of consumerism, branded as the shop local movement, small businesses have asserted themselves as the backbone of community commerce. Without an assortment of these stores, local economies would largely remain stagnant. Now what’s your excuse for not reinforcing economic growth in your own backyard? This isn’t to say all retail spending is best based within a 15-mile radius of your home. A give-and-take approach to retail tourism affords a happy medium between supporting your local community and patronizing small businesses elsewhere. With any luck, visitors will find a similar incentive to stop by your favorite neighborhood stomping grounds. The greater-Scranton area has been fortunately positioned as a quaint tourist destination for those individuals seeking one-of-a-kind shops. Just remember, you don’t always have to live local to shop local.
The success of the growing shop local movement depends on the dedication of consumers and entrepreneurs alike. Entrepreneurship, even when undertaken on a small scale, is certainly not for the faint of heart. Opening a business requires that a variety of dynamics be carefully considered. For starters, will you be building upon an established entity or launching a new concept? Opting to purchase a franchise license from a national chain, such as Wendy’s or Subway, comes with the brand recognition that is so often imperative to commercial success. An established brand has already carefully crafted positive consumer perceptions. On the other hand, starting from scratch runs a risk given the heightened barriers to entry and need to spark new interest. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, with great risk comes great reward. According to Independent We Stand, independent retailers return more than three times as much money per dollar than their chain competitors. Evidently, people are willing to pay an added cost for the novelty provided by small-town shops.
Small businesses embolden shoppers to invest their hard-earned income into their local economy and take a more active role in community growth and sustainability. Leading by example, these shops often take part in events and support charitable causes when they experience a similar sense of support from community members, leaders and organizations. At Willow Tree Shop, we donate baskets of merchandise to area organizations. Business owners are not the only ones who profit from the evolution of the shop local movement. As people invest in our business, we invest back in them.
Another direct effect of the movement’s progression is an upsurge in the local job market. Small businesses employ close to 77 million Americans. The more people who are employed, the larger the boost to local spending. This correlation between stores and shoppers extends far beyond a feeling of community togetherness. The housing market will also see improvement as a result of a strong business community. Areas with bustling small business districts, which have become increasingly common in Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA), have homes valued at 50 percent more than inclusive citywide markets. Economic growth is all but guaranteed when there is an emphasis on small business success. In fact, 55.3 percent of revenue from locally-owned businesses goes back into the local economy, according to a Fox Business study. That number drops drastically to 13.6 percent of give-back from national chains.
If you’re not yet convinced of the benefits of shopping local, bear in mind the improvement in product and service quality. At Willow Tree Shop, each product is crafted, selected and displayed with a great deal of time and precision. In many circumstances, local artisans are able to provide uniquely crafted and dependable goods, which more accurately meet the wants and needs of individual customers. This sense of familiarity results in a feeling of comfort and trust. Goods being sold are oftentimes produced in such limited quantities that the fear of any repetition or conformity is abruptly put to rest. As generations are constantly searching for the latest-and-greatest, the solution lies in plain sight. Local artisan shops provide the opportunity to find those distinctive characteristics. Products that are purchased at these stores are each made uniquely in their own right, and sure to withstand typical wear and tear far better than comparable items available at big retail outlets. These items help add another element into the shop local mix and make the movement that much stronger.
People, without necessarily realizing it, are becoming more reliant on the shop local mentality. 75 percent of business owners believe public awareness and support for local businesses have increased since 2011, according to Small Biz Daily. Say that your local fresh food store closes. You are now forced to buy higher priced, lower quality produce, all while stripping your local economy of much-needed resources. Perhaps that’s why 73 percent of Americans consciously opt to shop at small businesses over that of their larger competitors. (No offense, Wegmans. We still love you.) The shop local movement is gaining steam, and everyone is taking notice.
So, is the shop local movement limited to just your hometown? On the contrary. Tourists have good incentive to take a vested interest in retail markets other than their own. Better economic growth equates to more shopping, dining, vacation rentals and other attractions typically frequented by out-of-towners. By the same token, visitors can contribute greatly to the atmosphere that a town exudes. Owners are made friendlier by the help of engaging customers, leading to an overall enhancement in business-to-community relations. Most travelers are seeking excitement beyond the dull surroundings provided by rural tourism. This knack for adventure is easily fulfilled by the sight of quaint Pocono Mountain villages. In an area such as Clarks Summit, authentic tourism largely surpasses the appeal of commercial tourism, like what you would find at Disney World. State Street offers distinctive venues with a variety of things to do and local products to buy. As a tourist, there is the desire to find the perfect souvenir to commemorate your trip. On your way out of Clarks Summit, you surely wouldn’t buy a bar of Dove soap from Weis over a divinely scented lavender soap bar, crafted by a local artisan and available exclusively at the Willow Tree Shop. This type of small business activity provides tourists a genuine glimpse into a lifestyle which is likely much different from their own home habits and customs. After all, don’t we take vacations to break out of those mundane routines?
Microenterprises appeal to tourists because they offer something consumers will not find elsewhere: products with a story to tell. Homegrown stores, such as Willow Tree Shop, have presented an unforeseen competitive factor for many national brands. We not only supply hand-selected products, but a personalized shopping experience to match. Tailored consumerism unites community members through the understanding that small businesses are vital for prolonged economic stability. Everybody longs to feel special; only at boutique stores like ours will you be afforded such individual attention.
No matter how many Walmart’s are constructed across the country, the shop local movement forages on. More business owners are taking notice of the benefits of locally rooted entrepreneurship. Small-town Main Streets, similar to that of State Street in Clarks Summit, are serving as a base of revitalization efforts for their surrounding communities. As tourism rates rise, home ownership takes off; school districts begin to improve; creative prowess takes shape; and before long, your small town is the talk of travel bloggers everywhere. Families or couples vacationing in the Poconos can stop to have a bite to eat, grab a drink and pick up a little gift from Willow Tree Shop before heading home.
Each town, suburb or city has undoubtedly put their own spin on the shop local movement. In your hometown, it may be well established or just on the cusp of gaining popularity. One thing is for certain: the shop local movement is here to stay. Everyday people, the you and me of the world, have become the driving force behind this remarkable consumer crusade. In the meantime, we will keep pushing, promoting and participating in hopes of securing economic success for our local community partners. That begs the question: where will you shop local next?
Shop local, Shop Willow Tree Shop. We are rooted in your home comfort.
Willow Tree Shop • Clarks Summit
725 S. State Street, Clarks Summit, PA 18411
Winter hours, January through March:
Wednesday - Saturday 11:00 am to 5:00 pm
Closed Sunday, Monday & Tuesday
March through December:
Tuesday - Friday 11:00 am to 6:00 pm
Saturday 11:00 am to 5:00 pm
Closed Sunday and Monday