Never before in our history as a civilization have we been afforded so many choices when it comes to commerce. In days past, if one needed a hammer, one visited the local hardware store. If one needed shoes, then visiting the local shoe store was the obvious choice. Nowadays, the market for nearly every good and service has changed beyond recognition. Not only are there more stores than ever to choose from, but there’s also the option of not physically visiting a store to shop via the ubiquity of the internet, a fact that has revolutionized shopping as we know it.
Amid the evolution of the internet from an esoteric curiosity to a near-essential commodity in the last 25 years, we have seen the exchange of goods and services undergo a drastic change. What used to, without fail, entail human interactions (often within one’s own community) even a few years ago can now be completed with a click of a mouse. No longer are we limited to making purchases within our own geographic radii. Anything can be shipped anywhere nearly anytime.
While the myriad benefits of this newfound flexibility are nearly incalculable, the drawbacks are plenty. The last couple of decades have seen the death of the locally-owned “mom and pop” stores that used to populate nearly American town. Low-cost, big-box retailers swooped in to offer a higher volume of goods at a lower cost to consumers, but at the detriment of local businesses.
Fortunately, in the last few years, as the ripple effects of the world’s widespread industrialization have grown more apparent, there has been a resurgence of support for locally-owned businesses. The new generation of adults has grown appropriately distrustful of the collateral damage stemming from global retailers cornering the market that once belonged to the citizens of each community. Small businesses, often featuring locally-sourced foods, beverages, goods, and services, are flourishing in a way that hasn’t been seen in decades. Why? Because nameless, faceless corporatism has run its course. In its stead, small-batch, high-quality retailers offer a more personalized alternative.
I’ve heard it said that while businesses compete in three primary areas (quality, service, and cost), they can only truly excel in two. It’s nearly impossible to offer excellent quality goods with impeccable service at a low cost. Something has to give. Where does Wal-Mart win? Based on its low prices and adequate quality of goods. After all, you don’t leave Wal-Mart bragging about the service you received. In contrast, locally-owned businesses, while potentially being more expensive, tend to offer higher-quality products with a much stronger emphasis on customer service.
There’s obviously still enough market segmentation to keep all manner of businesses, big or small, afloat for the foreseeable future. As a hometown Cabot business owner, I humbly ask you, on behalf of all Cabot business owners, to shop Cabot first! Our town’s continued growth and improvement depend on it!