Does Shopping Local Have To Mean Spending More?

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MINT HILL, NC – We all know local retailers need community support, but when it comes to holiday shopping, people often assume it’s easier and cheaper to shop at Amazon or Target.  Doesn’t shopping local mean higher prices and less selection?

The truth is shopping local doesn’t necessarily mean spending more.  In fact, many local small businesses work hard to keep their prices in line with more widely known big box stores.  That’s the case for Patrick Holton, who prides himself on competitive pricing at the Woof ‘n Hoof that’s often lower than online retailers.

Supply chain issues, labor shortages, and the rising costs of goods and shipping have increased the cost of doing business over the past two years, and small businesses aren’t immune to the effects of inflation.  “What has impacted us are price increases,” says Debbie Carver, owner of Mama K’s Kettlecorn, who recently raised her prices by $1 for the first time since opening in April of 2018.  “Our ingredients are sugar and oil, and that stuff can be hard to come by.  We use a specific type of corn, and that price has gone up, so we’ve had to raise our prices, too.”

Carver’s situation isn’t unique.  “Many of the products we use have increased in cost,” says Annette Smith, owner of Mint Hill Coffee & Social House, “but we are doing everything we can to stay competitive with big box corporate stores.”  

It’s important to realize that this isn’t a situation that exclusively affects small businesses.  No matter where you shop this holiday season, you’re bound to see higher prices, and it’s important to remember that there’s more to take into account than the bottom line.  

Although you may pay a little more to shop locally, in return you’re often getting a higher quality product.  Take CBD oil, for example.  When you can buy a 4-pack on Amazon for roughly $25.00, Carolina Hemp Company’s $59.99 price tag seems high.  “But what are you getting?” asks Owner Monica Hailey-Sharpe.  “All hemp is not the same.  You need to know how it’s grown, where it’s grown, their extraction process.  There are actually people who bottle olive oil and sell it as CBD!  We’ve always known all our growers.  When you buy from Carolina Hemp Company, you know exactly what you’re getting.”

Shopping local means buying unique and personalized products like these Christmas stockings from The Gift Workshop
Shopping local means buying unique and personalized products like these Christmas stockings from The Gift Workshop

Shopping local also means giving a unique gift that the recipient won’t find anywhere else.  “Local can mean unique and more meaningful,” says Vice President of Mint Hill Arts Cindy Anegelleli.  Sure, you can get a necklace, some wall art, or a journal anywhere, but you won’t find the one-of-a kind handmade artisan jewelry, original prints and paintings and handmade journals sold at Mint Hill Arts anywhere else.  “I love going into a small business and getting something that is handmade,” says Sarah Brock, owner of Pour 64.  “This is always a great way to find something unusual that not everyone has.”

Because local business aren’t setting up shop in a large warehouse district where rent is lower and space is abundant, they can’t stock an infinite variety of items.  “Local businesses will have more overhead and won’t be able to stock everything,” admits Timothy Burgess, owner of Your Local Game Store.  “However, having many different, vibrant local businesses that are supported by the community will create diverse selection, and competition. With greater competition and diversity, lower prices and greater selection is a natural outcome.”

Shopping Local also means a more personalized shopping experience.  “When you shop small, you aren’t a number, you’re a neighbor,” says Kat dePrater of Mint Hill Flower Market.  “Need a special order?  We are happy to help.  If we don’t have it, we can likely put you in touch with another small business that does.  Last minute request or early planner?  We can work with your timeline because we eliminate a lot of processing time.  Shopping local is personal, which is a nice change in a world full of strangers.”

And perhaps that’s ultimately the most important reason it’s worth a few extra dollars to shop small: those extra dollars aren’t lining the pockets of a wealthy stranger.  They’re supporting real people who live right here in your community.  ““Shopping local means keeping your money inside your community,” says dePrater.  “There are a lot of perks with shopping local,  You’re supporting people who contribute to making our community better.”

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Mary Beth Foster
Mary Beth Foster works part time as an essay specialist at Charlotte Latin School and full time as a mom to her five-year-old daughter Hannah and her two-year-old son Henry. Prior to having children, she worked as a high school English teacher for nine years. Most recently, she chaired the English department at Queen's Grant High School. She and her husband have lived in Mint Hill with their children and their cats since 2011. Email: