For some, the shop-local experience is worth paying a few dollars more, even if an online search can turn up a cheaper price on an item.
But while savings may be found if you’re only searching for the price tag on a particular item, the bigger picture could sway even the most cost-conscious consumer of the benefits of the “buy local” argument. Here’s why:
Follow The Money – Studies consistently show that money spent locally tends to remain in the area, explains Matt Cunningham of non-profit Civic Economics, Evanston, Illinois.
His group’s most recent stats show that 52.3 percent of every dollar spent at an independent retailer remains in the local economy, and 15.8 percent of every dollar spent at a local branch of a chain retailer stays local.
Each dollar that stays close to home helps keep you and your neighbors employed and boosts the local tax base, which in turn helps fund schools and community services. And all those factors help support housing prices, benefiting area homeowners, explains Olivia LaVecchia of the Institute for Local Self Reliance, Washington D.C.
In contrast, when you buy online, your purchase is pulled off the shelf of a warehouse (which might be hundreds of miles away), piled into a truck and shipped, eventually arriving at your front door.
It’s difficult to estimate the local impact of the massive increase in online shopping, notes Cunningham, because it depends on whether warehouses are located nearby. But even if the delivery route wasn’t long, the impact of an online purchase is significantly less than any spending in-store, he adds.
The farther removed consumers are from seeing their actual dollars change hands, the less aware they are of the fact they are even spending money, says New York University marketing professor Priya Raghubir.
While paying in cash is more painful than using a card, there are now options that remove shoppers even further.
For example, online retailers encourage customers to register at the site and store their shipping and credit card information. Then the pain of even inputting a card number is eliminated because all the purchase takes is one click to place an order.
So, if you want to enjoy picking out the perfect home furnishings without incurring a jolt when your credit card bill arrives, consider drawing up a budget and stocking your wallet with cash, Raghubir advises.
Then, head to your local shops where you can see items up close and keep spending to a comfortable level.