The rise of ‘organic’ shopping

by Andy Bryenton

We all know that the farmer’s market or weekly fruit and veggie stall day is the new, trendy way to source food for the kitchen, top chefs on television pore over fresh-from-the-fields produce at events like this every week, but how does that relate to items like laptops, shoes or lawnmowers?

Taking a leaf from the farmer’s market book, many shoppers in the US and Europe are calling the new shopping trend ‘organic’, even though the items they are after don’t grow on trees. What they mean is that they are shopping as locally as possible, going to ‘indie’ or independent retailers to preserve the character of their towns and neighbourhoods. It’s more than just a hipster reaction to big-box blandness. There are solid mathematics and even some real eco-consciousness behind this new ideal.

One hot spot for ‘organic’ shopping is the city of Chicago, where studies have proven that buying from what they would call a ‘mom and pop’ store pumps $68 from every hundred directly into the immediate neighbourhood. Compare that with only $43 to the hundred at a big, non-locally-owned chain. Total economic benefit per square foot of retail space is also improved in stores which are locally owned (locally owned outlets under a major brand umbrella still make these gains too). Then there’s transport and durability, both of which impact a shopper’s eco-footprint.

Locally owned shops tend to buy and recommend quality over mass-produced bulk ‘specials’, leading to a longer lifetime for goods.

Drive time is also cut back. The study found that factoring in the value of hours spent driving and shopping, plus petrol, meant that the small added cost associated with not patronising a ‘big-box’ mass importer was negated.

Add in the service you get in a shop owned and staffed by people passionate about a niche product and their community, and there are a lot of reasons to shop local.