Buying Local… or not

Posted by on February 23, 2013

So I’m a huge fan of buying local. As a small business owner of 27 years (, I appreciate the chance to serve my community and hope that my customers feel the same.

Today I went to Play It Again Sports a used/new sports equipment store to trade in gear I hadn’t used in 2 years or more (and a failed experiment for the kids). Staff was super helpful and tried to help me figure out options for the missing items. Even carried weights out to my car. Nice!  I went in for 3 items, they only had one, but I was able to use some of my trade ins to offset some of the cost. Who needs a brand new barbel/weight set anyway? Not me. Saved $25, bought local, felt good about the entire transaction.

So went off in search of the remaining 2. I hate shopping. Even for my stuff. But I was determined to “do good” and find someone locally.

Store #2 was Chicago Fitness. We bought our treadmill there about 10 years ago and that treadmill is still kicking.  Although they didn’t have anything we needed the salesman was SUPER helpful in providing solution ideas to me about other options. As a lifter, he knew exactly what I needed – he just didn’t have it. And he reminded us of item #4 we needed, so that was great. THIS is a community store that just kicks A$$. I will continue to recommend them to everyone I know. Talked to us for like 30 minutes, didn’t make a dime, today. But he will. No doubt we’ll buy out next treadmill there.

Store #3 was Sports Authority. Arg, I’m not a fan of big box stores. The staff usually isn’t well-trained or motivated. Well, the salesman was nice and tried to help, they had item #4 but the other 2 items, still no luck.

Ok, I give up. I’m going online and will order it.

The Challenge… a negative spiral

If I can’t see/touch/feel stuff, how I can make an informed decision about a product? Does it fit? Does it look the way I want it? Looking online just can’t compare. Buying and returning items is a huge eco-waste, plus any cost savings is gone.

So I need a store right?

To afford a store front, I need enough sales volume.

Volume is usually made up of a mix of commodity (low margin, high volume) and specialty items (high margin, low volume) If that store can’t make money on the commodity items they can’t pay quality staff.

If they can’t pay quality staff, you are going to end up buying the wrong product more often. Which means returns. Restocking. Wasted time. Eco-Waste.

Solution? Buy the right stuff, at the same time, from the same place – done. One transaction.


It drives me nuts when I hear that someone when to X store to try something on, then they went online and bought it. To me, I consider that a form of theft. And it’s rampant today.

If you REALLY care about saving $5 on a $70 pair of shoes, or $0.12 on a powergel… be honest with your retailer. Offer to pledge to buy from them exclusively if they will cut you a special price. Or a Team price. It works. Trust me, just try it. Talk to the owner though, not a floor monkey.

Lastly, consider this. Especially at Bike Shops. If you get a RELATIONSHIP going with one, which means you buy exclusively from them, you will get much more in return. At my local bike shop I often don’t pay for minor tweaks and adjustments. Never pay for installation of something I bought from them. And I never jerk them around on price, actually I rarely ask. It works well for both parties.  I also can also hop in “front of the line” sometimes when I need something really badly (like right before a race). You’ll never get that from a Big Box retailer and you sure can’t get it online

My point? Support your local retailer. If you don’t support them they won’t be in  business to support you. I try to buy local whenever I can but I’m only one. How about you?

Please comment below – how do you feel about buying online vs local?

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