Independents Teach Students Valuable Economic Lessons

When I was in the third grade, my class did this thing called Econ Day. Did anyone else do this? For weeks we learned about simple economic theory (you know, good capitalist indoctrination starts young), and then on Econ Day we all brought a product or service that we’d created and had to try and sell it to our classmates. I remember not feeling up to the task at all. I think my best friend, Casey, and I held a bake sale. There was a prize for the kid who sold the most of his product, and I remember even then feeling like the whole thing was one big consumerist charades (not in those words, more like, “Man, Michael wins everything!”).  Needless to say, Casey and I did not win.

The other thing I remember about Econ Day was that in the weeks leading up to it we had several visitors (mostly kids’ parents) come in to talk about their jobs. I don’t remember very many lessons from my elementary school years, so the fact that I remember this curriculum suggests that we spent a lot of time learning about the economy and that our teachers thought it was important.

So I got to thinking: presumably schools are still teaching kids about economics today, because it’s important, right? And presumably, if educators think it’s important,  they’re going to continue to come up with interactive lessons like they did when I was going through school (Econ Day and having guest speakers) so that it makes an impression on students. So my question is this: are educators teaching about the importance of independent businesses in a community? And if they aren’t, wouldn’t programs like Econ-Week be a great opportunity for Indie booksellers (or other Independents) to come into classes or invite classes to come visit them and talk about why they’re so important to a community?

I love communities like IndieBound, the way they unite customers and business owners through their mutual love and desire to promote Independent Businesses. I see a lot of Indie booksellers with “Shop Local” signs in their window, “Shop Indie” banners on blogs, and statements on booksellers’  websites explaining why Independents are important to the community and why everyone should support their local Indies. That’s awesome. Every Independent should put up those signs. They should shout it from the mountain tops. People need to know that shopping local is something to be proud of.

But it’s not enough. We’ve all read the stories (and here). An Indie bookstore closes and customers whose shadow’s haven’t graced the shop door in years express regret when they hear the news… but they obviously didn’t care enough about the shop to spend their money there when it was opened.

We need to be using our voices to educate people. Tell them why Indies are so important.Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, NC sums it up well:

  • They keep the money in the community: about three times as much than if you shop at a chain and infinitely more than at a web-only vendor. Money that stays in your community pays for schools, parks, roads, and essential services.
  • They support local charities.
  • They are gathering places for community events.
  • They bring people together, and in that way, they build community.
  • They support individuals within the community (musicians, politicians, artists, students).
  • They provide protection against corporate censorship.
  • They often have a wider selection of books, music, whatever, that is directly catered to the community’s unique needs. Independents are risk-takers; they’ll take a gamble on a book they think is really special when chain stores wouldn’t.

So let’s start educating people. And let’s start in the schools.

  1. Kimberly said:

    I have never really stopped and thought about how important local businesses are for our community. But all I could think of when you said to be proud of buying locally was my grandfather and how much he hated the “Wal-mart” take over. He would not buy anything that was made outside of the US and definatly prefered to buy his products from local stores. I guess there was more behind his stubborn ways then just being old! Enjoying your blog!

    • Erin said:

      Hi Kim! That’s funny about your grandfather… I’ve know others from that generation who are like that. It makes since though. We just give other countries our money when we buy imported products. I found these stats on the subject:

      * Spend $100 at a local and $68 of that stays in your community. Spend the same $100 at a national chain, and your community only sees $43.
      * Local businesses create higher-paying jobs for our neighbors.
      * More of your taxes are reinvested in your community–where they belong.

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Mary Sue said:

    Here in C, NC we have a small ‘shopping area’ which does include a Wal-mart, but also quite a few local/Indie shops. I tend to use the coffee shop mostly. Last year they had a campaign something like ‘Spend $50 in 3 months’…I really don’t remember the specifics, but the campaign had info on how, when you spent just $50 at local stores within 3 months it really helped out the community. Now, I don’t drink $50 worth of coffee and tea, but it did make sense to me, so I do look to find those smaller shops…and when I do, I try to use cash so they don’t get stuck with the credit card merchant charges! Thanks for continuing the discussion!
    Glad to have found you.

  3. Erin said:

    Hi Mary Sue,
    There really are so many immediate, positive benefits to spending money locally. Thanks for sharing! Good point about using cash in smaller, independent shops. Look forward to seeing you around!

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