Scenario: you take to social media to express your excitement for a big box brand – maybe they have a sale on or have recently opened up a new store.
People pop up to remind you that you should be shopping local and/or attempt to shame you for your decision to shop at a big box store.
Even though those doing the shaming have zero knowledge about where you spend your money regularly, they shame you into thinking your perspective is wrong and you walk away feeling poorly and possibly resentful.
This behavior is known as “shop local shaming”.
The first time I witnessed shop local shaming, someone in our community Facebook group posted about their excitement for Starbucks moving into the nearby plaza. Immediately, other members of the group jumped in to remind her that there was a local coffee shop that she should be supporting instead.
As the conversation continued, other members of the group chimed in and began a shaming ritual. The conversation turned into a debate about where people should spend their money and about the practices that the consumer was participating in simply for supporting that business. Over time, the conversation simply became ugly.
In the second occurrence, I had Tweeted out about a toy store’s growth here in our fine city and I instantly received replies to remind me to (a) support a local toy store and (b) shop local. Even though I expressed that the local toyshop was one I frequented often and supported regularly, the conversation still took a turn for the worse.
I walked away from that conversation feeling misunderstood and labeled incorrectly.
Why Shop Local Shaming Hurts Rather Than Helps
Is supporting local is a great thing to do? Absolutely. Will people continue to get their coffee at Starbucks and their groceries at Costco? More than likely.
We are blessed in this great country to have freedom of expression and freedom of choice. We can spend our money wherever we please and we shouldn’t have to apologize for those choices.
The only thing that happens when people shame others for their choices is that the shamed individuals walk away with a sour taste in their mouth. A sour taste that is now associated with that local shop.
The better option in those circumstances, if you’re the one doing the shaming, is to just bite your tongue. Instead of making others feel poorly for their choices, make yourself feel good by promoting and talking about the local shops you love.
By not specifically targeting someone and calling them out for their decision, you take away negativity and replace it with pure positivity. Positivity that helps the “shop local” campaign continue to spread without shoving the idea down people’s throats.
If you’re a small, local shop owner and you witness this type of shaming happening, simply step in and honor the person’s freedom of choice and offer them something that says, “I would love a chance at your business.”
In the situation described above, the one involving Starbucks, the owner of the local coffee shop stepped in to the conversation and without shaming the person into shopping there, simply offered a free coffee if she was willing to try them out.
Simple and effective.
Big Box Brands vs. Local and Why Being Unique Wins Business
At the end of the day, there is room for everyone on the market. The only difference between a big box store and a local shop is what they do to make the customer experience unique and memorable.
If you’re a local store dealing with infiltrating big box brands and you’re beginning to feel the pressure, look at your business to see what you can do that the big box stores aren’t doing.
For example, that local toy store I talked about earlier hosts amazing events on the weekend that are mostly free and 100% relevant to their target market. From face painting to character visits, there is always something unique and different happening that you can’t find elsewhere.
That same toyshop also makes amazing use of social media and they really connect and care about each of their customers. If you have a question about toys or gift ideas, the shop’s owner will be right there on Twitter or Facebook to answer your questions. Something you can’t find at big box stores.
To Sum It Up
I think shopping local is fabulous. However, it may not be right for you and your family 100% of the time. I know it isn’t for us.
We all have things like budgets to consider and when the choices are to spend more at a local shop or less at a big box brand, sometimes you choose the big box brand. That doesn’t make you a bad person or terrible consumer.
Smaller, local chains have an opportunity to compete with big box brands when they make their customers think more about the experience and less about price. That is the sweet spot for local shops. Make what you do something that big box brands just don’t have the capacity to do.
If you’re a person who promotes shopping locally, keep in mind the effects that your words may have when you push your views on others. You may think that it is helping but it can have the opposite effect. It can cause that person to resent the shop local movement and shop at big box brands out of spite.
What are your thoughts on shop local shaming? Do you think it helps or hurts small businesses and why? Have you witnessed this behavior first-hand? Leave your responses in the comments below!