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Hearth & Home May 2015

Richard Wright
Hearth & Home Magazine

Shop Locally!

Small is good; independent is better. Small and independent is best.

There’s a number of movements throughout the land that are encouraging consumers to shop locally, at independent stores, and there are compelling reasons why that’s a good thing.

Surveys show that for every $100 spent in a small business, $68 dollars will stay in the local economy, versus $43 for every $100 spent with a mass merchant. If it’s an online purchase, forget about anything going into the local economy.

If you’re a small business owner, making sure that as much money as possible stays in the community is, in fact, a way of ensuring your business future. Buy a few pairs of shoes from a locally-owned shoe store, and those funds may come back to you when the owner of that store, or one of his/her employees, purchases a grill, or stove or deep-seating group complete with fire pit.

It’s a no-brainer, but we all forget how important it really is to support those who can in turn support us.

That fact is front and center for many residents of the Lakes Region in New Hampshire (where we live and work). A good guess is that half of the retail space on Main Street in Laconia is empty, and has been now for a few years. Within a short drive, three old-time convenience stores, in existence for decades and decades, have just closed their doors. No, there were no buyers interested and, on Main Street, no renters jumped in.

That scenario is, and has been, playing out in every small town in the country, and far beyond.

The steamroller that Sam Walton began in 1962 has not only run over most of the smaller stores, it has attracted other large chains that are doing the same to a different group of businesses (think Home Depot, Costco, Lowe’s, Best Buy, Target and on and on).

None of that would be happening if we had continued to spend our money in the small shops owned by our neighbors.

So, who is most responsible for the death of Main St. USA and millions of small businesses nationwide? Is it Sam Walton and others like him, or is it the residents of Small Town USA who decided to forgo shopping at their neighbors’ stores and instead gave all their money to out-of-towners?

It’s Not Small, But It Is Independent

In this issue you’ll also find an article on the Nebraska Furniture Mart and its new Texas store – all 560,000 sq. ft. of it. But this is not Wal-Mart. This store is one of only four in the Midwest, and it is still operated by the family that created it. Rose Blumkin, who founded the store, sold 90 percent of it to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway company in 1984. She died in 1998 at the age of 104, but family members are still hands-on in running the business.

Have Grill, Will Travel

This month you’ll also read about a sales manager who decided to rent a van, load a couple of appliances, hit the road and call on specialty retailers from Vancouver to New York. Twenty-thousand miles later his sales totaled $400,000 and expenses for the trip were $30,000. Impressive.

A New Concept

If that isn’t enough, you’ll also learn about a company that has reinvented the golf driving range, and turned it into a place to hang out, eat, drink, listen to music, dance and, yep, enjoy friendly golf competition, all in the comfort of Woodard’s furniture and TUUCI’s shade.

More Stories in this Issue

Shop Mom & Pop

By Lisa Readie Mayer

The Shop-Small, or Shop-Local movement is gaining traction as a way of helping specialty-store owners increase their business.

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A Year to Remember

By Bill Sendelback

Buoyed by a remarkable sales year in 2014, gas fireplaces are on the road to recovery, but unit sales are still 64 percent less than in 2005.

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A Slow Pace

By Bill Sendelback

If you’re waiting and watching for a new home construction to really take off, here’s a bit of advice — have patience.

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Texas-Style Shopping!

By Tom Lassiter

Nebraska Furniture Mart is open for business; it expects eight million customers a year and could well generate $1 billion in annual sales.

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A Teak Revival?

By Tom Lassiter

As the season unfolds, fresh designs, strong early-buys and a trend toward rustic styling have manufacturers in an optimistic mood.

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A Travelin’ Man

By Richard Wright

Rick Baker hits the road for six months to personally introduce Alfresco Home’s Fervor grill to specialty retailers from New York to Vancouver.

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2015 March Business Climate

In early April, Hearth & Home faxed a survey to 2,500 specialty retailers of hearth, barbecue and patio products, asking them to compare March 2015 sales to March 2014. The accompanying charts and selected comments are from the 232 useable returns.

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