When purchasing supplies I have a basic hierarchy of preferences on where to obtain goods. First, the local stores that make Austin the unique place it is. Second, regional and national chains which have a presence in Austin. Third, the ethereal Internet from whence nearly anything can be obtained.
I love local shops. I consider them to have a more thoughtful selection than their big box counterparts, and I find I like a higher percentage of their stock compared to a chain store. Their prices are likewise higher, but the quality also tends to be higher as well. I like to keep my money local: support local people who in turn can then spend the money locally. It's also nice to be able to chat with people who love their stores and the art or craft their store supplies. The downside is that I have yet to ever leave a local store without a plan to visit a larger store to find the reminder of the supplies I need.
Regional and National Chains
Entities with the ability to purchase in large quantities and afford huge retail spaces have the advantage of being able to keep a large variety and quantity of stock. Their offers of coupons and sales are enticing. It's also nice to go to a store and be certain they'll likely have the tool I need. The trade off for a large stock at a low price is a sacrifice of knowledgeable employees and quality of goods.
I believe the availability of online shopping is revitalizing the world of makers. When I can't find a specialty item locally, there is often someone on the internet who can provide exactly what I want. It's also incredible that with 2-day shipping I often what I need can often arrive on my doorstep before I have time or energy to go shopping with Little Hands. The great disadvantage is not being able to see and handle the product in person prior to purchase.
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