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The Cost of Local Business


When I first moved to Oklahoma City, it was the kindness of the people that captured my heart. I have never met such genuinely kind people. Like strangers in front of you in line at Elemental who buy your coffee, just to be nice! I mean, who does that!?! In college, I got to spend some time living in New York and outside of London and I will tell ya, that would have never EVER happened there. So with that said, something that always caught me super off guard was when customers at my store would complain to me about how much something cost. Or tell me that they loved this candle but they were going to go buy it online. Like, it is one thing to think about doing that but why would you tell me? So rude! You wouldn’t even know about that candle if I wasn’t carrying it in my shop. And I doubt this ever crossed anyones mind, but it was like they were telling me, “I love your store but you are not worth it.” It took a lot of time to find well made handmade products that were unique to our city.  And guess what, I can’t support myself, or let alone pay to keep the lights on, if you don’t buy something. That's kinda' how it works. Ok, end rant. Sorry I got so riled up there.

With that said, I would love to help shed a little light on why local SOMETIMES costs more. First off, did you know that Amazon’s whole business model was created where they don’t have to make a profit!?! How can any small business compete with that? A small shop owner doesn’t have the flexibility to throw money away. Every dollar lost is one that dramatically affects them. In the last year Collected Thread was open, there were many months where I went without paying myself because I only had enough to pay my employees. That felt pretty dramatic to me. Small businesses do not have the flexibility that a big box shop has. 

Here is another way to think about it.  If a shop has a line of t-shirts created in house, they have to pay the artist, screen printer and t-shirt wholesaler before they can put it out in the shop. What does that look like dollar wise? Normally, I was paying anywhere from $6-$9 for a blank tee. The screen printers I used were dear friends so I normally paid $2-$5 for each shirt to be printed. And then I wanted to pay the artist well for their design so that was anywhere from $2-$4 a shirt. So at the low end of everything I just listed, a shirt cost me $13. The rule of retail is you have to at least double your cost to make a profit. So I would have to sell the shirt for at least $26. A big company can order a much larger amount of shirts, which will bring their cost down considerably. A small business just cannot compete with that. $5 tees like the ones at Target would never have been an option, unless they were our leftover “Be Like KD” tees. Tear.

Anyways, I just wanted to shed a little light on the "why." I get being on a budget. I am about to have three kids! I am right there with you. But sometimes, I think spending a little more at a local shop is worth it because I generally can trust I am getting a stronger, unique product than what I would get at a big box shop and, more importantly, I am supporting a shop and its owner, which adds so much to our local community. You can go to a Barnes and Noble almost anywhere, but only OKC has Commonplace Books and Full Circle Bookstore. I think they are worth spending a little bit more!

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