Shop Big or Shop Small: Which would you choose?

Americans that regularly buy coffee throughout the week spend an average of $1,092 on coffee annually (2012 Workonomics Survey published by Accounting Principles). Clearly, the everyday purchases that we make add up. More importantly, these small, everyday purchases have an impact on the local and national economy. So, with this power in mind, have you considered who your money is going to?

Basically, consumers have two options when spending their money: shop big or shop small. Consumers can choose to support major companies or choose to support small, local businesses. This choice is often affected by who the consumers trust and favor.

According to the 2012 Public Affairs Pulse Survey commissioned by the Public Affairs Council, most Americans prefer to shop small. Additionally, this survey found that 52 percent of Americans think that small business owners are highly ethical while a mere 4 percent think CEOs of major companies are highly ethical. Furthermore, Americans have been found view small businesses more favorably than other institutions based on a 2010 Pew Research Center survey on the people’s view of their government.

Photo retrieved from The Georgetown Dish

In 2010, American Express launched Small Business Saturday in alignment with the national Shop Small movement to support small businesses and their communities. Small Business Saturday is a day recognized by the United States Senate and is celebrated in all 50 states in order to encourage local communities to support their small businesses. Over the past decade, the trend to “Shop Small” has grown. Events like Small Business Saturday allow customers to find small business to support, making them more accessible. In 2014, American Express reported that an:

Photo retrieved from American Express

After collecting public opinion on the topic, it seems as though the general opinion held by students in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh matches the national opinion, which favors shopping small and supporting small businesses and their owners. However, not everyone preferred to shop small in situations when shopping big was more convenient, accessible, or comfortable.

Milan Johnson, University of Pittsburgh senior, said, “Yeah, I tend to trust small businesses owners over CEOs of large companies. I have a few friends who run their own clothing lines and I’m open to supporting them and trying their clothes.”

While in Starbucks, I approached two students who preferred to remain anonymous. Both students said that they were open to shopping big and shopping small. One student, a University of Pittsburgh senior, said, ” Shopping small is dependent on accessibility and the good or service.” He said, “If it’s easy and available to shop small, I do, but we’re both here at Starbucks [a large corporation] today because it’s accessible and its brand is well known.” The other student, a University of Pittsburgh senior, said, “For me, it’s not a moral decision between shopping big or shopping small. Big corporations do good things, and they do bad things, but they know how to please their customers and they are consistent. You know what to expect from them.”

Trevor Wormack, University of Pittsburgh junior, said, “Shopping small isn’t as convenient as buying from large corporations. But, I’d like to do it.” Wormack went on to say, “I’d much rather help a business that is struggling or just starting out than give my money to a rich CEO who doesn’t care about me.”

Timia Rickert, University of Pittsburgh junior, said, “Everyone starts somewhere.” Rickert said that she would shop small. She said, “If small businesses offer the same product with the same quality, why not support them?”

The general opinion held by students in the Oakland area seems to be open to supporting small businesses and shopping small, when possible. The majority of students agreed to trusting small business owners and said they favored shopping small when they could. However, some students indicated that they don’t favor one or the other, supporting big corporations or small businesses. The majority of my findings align with the national polls conducted on shopping small.

What would you choose? Do you prefer to shop small? Shop big? Why?

Do you find it difficult to shop small and support small businesses in your daily life due to a lack of convenience or access?

Do you think small business owners are more ethical than CEOs of large corporations? Do you favor small businesses over large corporations?


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