Why shopping local matters.

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Since I started this blog nearly 5 years ago things have changed in a good way!  There are more brick and mortar cloth diaper stores than there were “back in my day.”  When I started cloth diapering it was either buy online, or drive almost 2 hours to the closest diaper store.  I did make that drive on a few occasions because I appreciated the one-on-one support and the ability to touch and feel the diapers in person.  Seeing a photo and reading a page long description that used alien terms didn’t do the diapers justice.  I wanted to see what I was buying and hear a real person tell me why this was better than that.  At the time I was torn between two brands and the sales associate was able to help me make my choice.  I walked out with two new diapers and several gently used covers and returned when I could to buy more.

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There is simply no better way to shop for cloth diapers than in person when you can, especially as a first time cloth diaper user.  The stores you see in your community need your support.  If you have a store near to you and never buy from them, but you attended their cloth diaper 101 class to learn how to use them, you may not find them there when you are ready to take the potty training 101 class.

Local diaper stores do their communities a great service.  They become a hub for expecting and new mothers to attend classes, and not just for cloth diapering.  Many diaper stores are also natural parenting stores.  They offer lactation services, nursing bra fittings, natural childbirth classes, mommy and baby playgroups, cloth diaper classes and support, and even babywearing classes and meetings.   I’ve seen stores even offer music classes for babies and moms or baby yoga classes!  Your local store gives back to your  local economy and your community in so many ways!

The challenges of owning and operating a storefront are many, just ask the people who are working every day to create successful businesses.

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Abby Noorozi, owner of The Green Nursery in Bloomington, IN

“I love having a brick and mortar store, it definitely adds to what we do.  We are able to merchandise in a way that is beautiful, create interesting and unique window displays, and provide a space for our community – in turn we are able to use that local image via our social media, which adds a special something to what we do online.  The hard part is, our online business greatly outweighs our local business – which at times has made us wonder if keeping a brick and mortar store is the wisest decision, especially since we now have expanded our online business in to a warehouse.  It’s sad, but true that in our online and ‘best deal’ culture sometimes local customers come in and get 1:1 help and detailed product information from us, and then order from somewhere else online.   At this time, we are plugging away and doing everything we can to sustain our local showroom and grow our local business, as we truly believe we will lose something that makes TGN unique if we don’t have our brick and mortar.  Remember shopping local may cost you a few more dollars, but it’s worth it.  Big box has it’s place, but local and small businesses are the heart and soul of communities, and if a cloth diaper brick and mortar is going to thrive anywhere – it’s crunchy and beautiful Bloomington, Indiana.”

Amii Fritz,  Owner of Up on the Hill in Shepherdstown, WV

“Well, I guess shopping local is important for many reasons. Your money stays local and has a direct effect on the local economy. Your local brick and mortar can offer customer service above and beyond what a big box or online store can. We offer one on one diaper counseling or carrier fittings. We remember your child’s name, your preferences, what wet bag print you’ve been waiting for. I even once held a last-minute blessing way in the store after hours for a sweet mama preparing for an HBAC, that I didn’t even know! We genuinely care about our customers, we genuinely love our products. You may save 10% or more on amazon, but you’re also losing a whole lot of backup with a product that sometimes needs a little extra follow through.”

If you have ever taken a trip to your local natural parenting store just to see an item in person that you plan to buy online for cheaper then you are doing something called “showrooming.” It may not sound like a big deal to you, but to the shop it can be.  The shop owner or employee gives you a one-on-one advice session about how to use the product and after 30 minutes you are SOLD.  Except, you know it is 20% off online and will go home and order thanks to their demonstration.  This happens often in any store, but for a small business this can harm their bottom line and their morale.  I do not have an issue with shopping online for a great deal and I do so often, but please, if you plan to buy online don’t showroom locally first.  If you plan to buy the product online or can’t afford the local price, go watch the videos and read the reviews!  If you want to see it in person, it is worth it to spend a little extra for that level of service.

People may argue with this logic, but if I know I can’t afford to tip but can afford the price of food, I won’t go out to eat.  I think this applies to showrooming as well.  If I know I can afford the stroller online for $50 off, but want to see it before I buy it, I still won’t showroom.   I had to add a small section about this phenomenon because many of you might not even realize what it is, or that you are doing it!

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I have met many amazing retailers, owners of online only stores and brick and mortars.  No one goes into this business because they want to become filthy rich!  They do it because they are passionate about the products and want to help others on their journey.  Local stores especially are taking a greater risk when they open shop, and I’ve witnessed so many stores close their doors to go back to being an online store, or they close altogether when the business just wasn’t there.  I can’t say it is always because the locals weren’t supporting the business, it may have been that the market wasn’t there to begin with, but we all owe it to our local stores (those of us lucky enough to have them) to support them if we can.

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Emily, Kim, and Kristen from GDGH with Salina at Diaper Lab in MA

I make it a point to stop in at the local diaper shops when I’m traveling and because of this I have seen many amazing stores.  One of these days I will bring my camera along and share what makes these shops special, and how just being there can bring about a noticeable culture shift where more families begin using cloth diapers, more moms understand how to safely babywear, and more families meet one another and gain a sense of community they never had before the store opened.   I’ve seen this in Syracuse, NY with Basic Baby, and in Somerville, MA with Diaper Lab.  It is an amazing thing to witness and I appreciate the risks they are taking and the work they are putting in to keep their doors open.

If you have a local diaper store you love, or just want to share your opinion, please leave a comment!

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