Buy Local — Trend or Fad?

Well let me say right off that I don’t know the answer to this question. From a marketing perspective trends are far better investments for the small business owner so of course I would love to be able to say that consumers are trending toward local purchasing. Trends are deep (they generally effect many people), wide (they tend to remain true across geographic regions), have staying power (usually last a long time) and best of all, you can see them coming from a distance so you have time to prepare your strategy. Trends that most of us are aware of include: our graying society, women in the workforce, less time spent on food preparation, and growing demand for organic and/or healthy choices in foods.
Fads come into being quickly, garner a lot of media attention, and then fade away just as quickly. Although “quick” is a relative term and could easily mean months and years rather than days and weeks. Surely everyone can identify at least a couple fads. Strangely many of the ones that stick in my mind are diet-related. Think Low-Carb, Low-Protein, Fat-free, Sugar-free, etc.
So, where does the “buy local” movement belong? I certainly would like to see it as a trend. One that will endure for a long time with prosperous outcomes for our rural communities.
Before “buy local” can be categorically determined to be a trend rather than a fad it seems that we need to know more about the drivers behind the movement. How related is the economic recession to people’s desire to buy locally? Do consumers view local as synonymous with safer or more secure? In other words are people choosing locally produced goods and services out of fear of the alternative? If so, this would seem more fad-like. When things turn around will consumers return to their old purchasing habits?
It would also be useful to know who the ‘buy local’ consumer is? Is it people with discretionary income? Those on fixed incomes? Families? Seniors? Or younger consumers who can be counted on to relocate several times in the next 10-15 years? All of these variables will help to frame the “buy local” movement as either an enduring trend or a fad that will soon give way to the next compelling thing.

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