Supporting Small Business: Why It’s a Smart Move for Contractors to Buy Local Vs Large Box Stores
Every builder has been there. You visit a big box store to purchase an item for a few dollars less than your local construction supply store. It breaks immediately or is deficient in some way and you want to return it. This is where the headache begins. Often lines are very long at the customer service desk. When you finally reach the counter, the employee tells you that the window of opportunity to return the product has closed. The store offers a credit rather than a refund. You call the customer complaint line and are greeted with an endless series of automated prompts that may not even ultimately connect you to a human. You have to ask yourself: “Was saving a couple bucks really worth it?”
Small businesses are different than large multinational chains in a number of ways. First and foremost, customer service is a major priority. Small businesses are eager to help and often form lasting personal relationships with loyal customers. From knowing the regulars’ names to asking how the project is coming along, small family-owned businesses care about their customers. They do not have tens of thousands of patrons and so must impress visitors with extraordinary customer service. Unlike employees at large box stores, small business owners take pride in the products they offer and are highly knowledgeable. They know the construction business and provide accurate recommendations for products that work best for specific job site needs. Many businesses provide samples and follow up with customers to make sure products are working well. When problems arise, it is not uncommon for small business owners to go above and beyond helping customers solve problems.
From an economic perspective, supporting small businesses helps communities by stimulating the local economy. Greater demand for local goods and services means more jobs and a more robust economic climate. According to several studies, when people buy from small businesses there is a much greater investment into the local economy than if they purchased from large box stores. The increased demand for local goods and services serves as a reinvestment in the community that may result in more jobs, higher wages, and fewer small business closures.
There is also something to be said about the quality of supplies purchased from local stores vs. large box stores. For example, the San Diego-based surface protection company Builders Site Protection offers carpet film that is 3.0mils thick. It looks similar to the 2.0mils thick film found at Home Depot, but it is actually a more durable, puncture-resistant high quality product. In many instances and with many products, large box stores buy in bulk from China or other countries and secure highly discounted, lower quality products than small businesses. Small business owners know where to source for the highest quality inventory and are committed to selling products that will last longer than a cheaply made comparable product. This discrepancy can be found at local businesses throughout the country. Even though a large box store may be less expensive in the short-term, in the long run an inferior product can end up costing builders more.
The quality of customer service, beneficial impact on the local economy, and superior product quality are just a few reasons to consider purchasing construction supplies from small businesses.