Thursday, January 17, 2013

Local Economy On A Roll

A movie marquee from Stafford's Ritz Theatre in 2010.
Going the Distance: Small towns and rural communities in Kansas and across the U.S. are trying to figure out how to do just that. One county in Iowa has a simple idea that's making a big difference.

The Chamber of Commerce in Greater Franklin County (Iowa) is making an impact on their local economy one toilet paper roll at a time.

It doesn't sound very glamorous, does it? And it's getting mighty personal. But think about it: What product does every person use every day? Young or old, male or female, farm or town: Everybody uses toilet paper. In fact, the average person uses 105 rolls of toilet paper a year. It costs an average of $1.25 per roll.

So, in December 2011, the Greater Franklin County Chamber of Commerce promoted an idea: Buy toilet paper at a hometown store, not a big box store. And, believe it or not, the idea is starting to clean up (so to speak).

There are 15,000 people in Greater Franklin's service area. They did the math (which is good, since it's not my best skill):
From their Buy One Product Local website:
That one item (toilet paper) would keep almost $2 million dollars in sales in the county.  It would also generate $140,000 in sales taxes.

Last year, it was estimated that the amount actually spent on toilet paper in greater Franklin County was $335,800 – that’s lost revenue of $1,631,244!
The idea worked. After a year, Franklin County stores that sell toilet paper have seen an increase in sales.

Our county doesn't have that many people, so the math will be different. But what would happen if residents of rural Kansas "swiped" the idea and bought their toilet paper from hometown stores? What if we then added a tube of toothpaste or some laundry detergent to the shopping cart? How would our local economy be impacted if we spent money in our hometown for everything from apples to deodorant to soap to zucchini, instead of driving 30-plus miles to a big box store for supplies?
Notice that Angel Soft toilet paper is even on sale this week at Paul's!
My husband has always been an advocate of shopping locally. I must admit that I do shop in the chain stores on occasion, but I do try to do the bulk of my grocery shopping at our small town grocery store, Paul's.

Last October, the Stafford Mercantile opened. It's a variety store owned by local investors. It fills a niche in our small town that was left when our Duckwall's store was closed in 2010.
Yes, I really did have toilet paper on the pickup hood. I got some weird looks.
When something new opens, there's always an initial curiosity and foot traffic. Hopefully, that led to some purchases, too. But when the newness wears off, we forget that we need to be the solution to having things like wrapping paper, bridal shower gifts, office supplies, toys and more available just down the street instead of 30-plus miles away.  (Our Stafford Mercantile also has a refurbished, vintage soda fountain, so come enjoy a scoop of ice cream, a milkshake or a fountain drink.)

If we aren't willing to open our wallets in hometown stores, we are "voting" against having those services available locally. Maybe we'll have to pay a little more for the convenience. But what's the real payoff?

Reasons to Shop Local (from Buy One Product Local's website)
  • When you purchase locally, those businesses you buy from purchase from other local businesses.  Those same local businesses often support local charities.
  • Small businesses are the largest employers nationally.
  • Local businesses are looking to hire someone with specific product expertise – meaning better customer service.  Plus, they live and work in the community and really know their customers.
  • Generally, local business owners are more invested in the community.  Their children attend the schools, their family goes to a local church.
Who knew toilet paper could be such a big deal? I'd like to find out. Will you join me?


  1. Thanks, Kim. This is a great idea. Even though we live in Hesston, I am trying to buy TP etc from the Merc. Also, we are in charge of hospitality committee at church. We buy lots of supplies thruout the year. Am sure this is the case with many churches. So, can we be sure those who are in charge of these purchases by local. Sure would help. I'm even trying to set up so we buy Hesston needs from the Merc.

    1. I got some funny looks when I was taking photos of toilet paper in front of the Mercantile! I went in with my list to the Mercantile yesterday and shopped at Paul's the day before. I really do think it could make a big difference! Thanks for all you are doing.

  2. We did some of our Christmas shopping at the Mercantile, as well as the new shop on the square in St. John. I think your idea is great, and we will try to remember it. We don't get to Stafford as much since Mother is no longer in the nursing home, but we do go to St. John and Pratt, and I'll try to find more local businesses to support. How about the Country Store in Macksville? We must support local businesses, or we will inconvenience ourselves when they are gone because they weren't supported!

    1. I think we just all need to do our part in our own little neck of the woods. I don't get to Macksville or St. John as frequently. But if we all shop in hometown businesses in our particular community, we are all making a difference.