Why The “When You Buy From a Small Business” Signs Are Wrong

Why The “When You Buy From a Small Business” Signs Are Wrong

I’m sure you’ve all seen the sign:

When you buy from a small business, you are not helping a CEO buy a third holiday home.

You are helping a little girl get dance lessons, a little boy get his team jersey, Mums & Dads put food on the table.

Shop local.

Read my articles, attend a training session of mine, and come to our coworking space and you’ll see that I’m a big fan of small business in the UK. In fact, supporting and empowering small businesses in the face of competition from larger corporations is central to what I professionally believe in and what I do every day.

Therefore, you’d think that, because I’m a small business, and because most of my clients are small businesses, that I’d agree with this sentiment whole-heartedly. Well, you’re wrong. Every time I see this sign, I could cry. And here are my reasons why:

1. Can we deal with the needless gender stereotyping first? Good, thank you.

2. I’m pretty sure the 500,000 employees of Tesco, many of whom rely on the wage the supermarket provides, would have an issue with this statement.

3. What happens if we all follow this post and only buy from small shops? Small shops that now get bigger as a result and will then need to employ more staff, move to bigger premises, etc. When do we stop buying from them, because we’ll have to as the CEO of this once-small shop is now doing very well for him/herself? E.g. Tesco’s started out as a market stall in East London.

4. This implication that by supporting big business you are supporting greed, and by supporting small business you are supporting all that is good and pure, is not only wrong, it’s also dishonest and dangerous.

5. It drives home a message of entitlement. Buy from us because we’re small, not because we’re any good.

In short, when you buy from a big store, you are also helping Mums & Dads put food on the table.

What Message Should a Small Business Put Out?

Answer this question: Why should someone walk through your doors, visit your website, or pick up the phone to you? What’s the one key differentiation between you and your bigger competitors?

Instead of some meaningless, and frankly dangerous message, that’s the message you should put out there to attract new customers.

As ever, this is just my opinion. So what does the message above say to you?

If you’re a small retailer, what did you come up with as a key differentiation? How do you compete with the bigger stores?

I’d genuinely love to hear your stories. Contact me here or tweet me @edagoodman.

Thanks for reading.


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