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A Tale of Two Saturdays

A few weeks ago, while Glenn Beck, the American conservative radio and television host was leading his “Restoring Honor” rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., I was busy with my own endeavor, holding a sidewalk sale outside my Somerville, MA, apartment in an attempt to rid myself of all unnecessary possessions.  Now, what could these two events possibly have in common?  Well, other than the fact that nobody really seemed to care, they both echo the insights gleaned in Communispace’s latest research report, Local:Eyes, which explores the current trend towards local buying and is due out this month.

Left: The Restoring Honor rally drew about 100,000 passionate supporters; Right: the author's garage sale was slightly less successful.

Glenn Beck and other Tea Party Movement leaders have come into vogue preaching principles like limited government, creating jobs in America, helping small businesses, and charity towards one’s neighbors.  The local movement is about many of the same ideas and reflects a shifting mindset that emphasizes the familiar, close and safe, over the abstract, faraway and untrustworthy (think: banks, government, big business).

Though my yard sale was a smashing failure, I truly enjoyed chatting with my customers, watching them browse, answering their questions.  There was the young mom who just wanted to peruse my vintage threads, but was hampered by the adorable toddler glued to her neck.  (Turns out, he had started preschool that week, and was now convinced that all adults were teachers-in-disguise, waiting to scoop him up at the first opportunity.)  Or the grad student from UMass Lowell who spends his weekends in the city trolling yard sales and meeting strangers.  When you really talk to consumers about why they buy locally, this is the kind of interactive, responsive and unique experience they describe.

Both the Tea Party Movement and the “Locavaore” Food Movement have their roots in a basic dissatisfaction with things being done on a massive, one-size-fits-all scale.  Consumers are feeling unstable and demand increased personalization, customization and control.  Just as they seek accountability and transparency from their government, they want to know where the products they buy come from, who made them and who is going to stand behind them.

What finally brought the local food trend from Old McDonald’s Farm to McDonald’s wasn’t an impulse to save the planet, or a political movement, or even thriftiness, but just another variation on the familiar tune of “Buy American.” Home farms are the new victory gardens, a way for consumers to do their small part during tough times.  The desire to support one’s neighbors and countrymen, to make a connection between a product and its roots, to buy with purpose and passion?  Now that’s a movement we can all get behind.

Keep your peepers peeled for Local:Eyes, coming soon—and in the meantime, enjoy perusing some of Communispace’s brilliant research library.

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