Sorry I just don’t spend money in this town.
Believe it or not, I have heard this phrase more times than I care to count this past week. When my fiance Ben launched his new business – which focusses on rewarding residents for shopping with small businesses – this was the most common objection. People were dishing it out like candy canes during Christmas.
I was bewildered. Not because I believe it to be true – research shows people do buy local and believe shopping local is important – but because people had no idea the impact of those words to someone who cares deeply about creating employment and keeping money in our community.
After the third person had uttered this sentence, I wanted to retort:
“How do you expect our local economy to thrive if you don’t support small business? How do you expect jobs to be created? Are you relying on government investment alone? Or are you waiting for corporate investment? We live in a regional community, not a swanky suburb of Sydney…”
But Ben had warned me not to get too feisty or confrontational with people, my default nature when I am extremely passionate about my beliefs. We live in a small town, he tells me. People have long memories. Don’t debate.
Ok I said. But deep down I was thinking, Seriously, have we met?! LOL! Thankfully I have a platform where I have complete freedom to explore issues that are important to me.
So why is shopping locally and supporting small businesses a big deal?
Here are my five key reasons…
Reason #1 – More money stays in the local economy
When you shop at a small business, you are not helping a chain store with a head office pay big bucks to its executive team and shareholders. You are usually supporting a family, helping parents pay for their kid’s education or their house mortgage, or entrepreneurs pay rent and cover start up costs.
Small-scale local business owners also understand the importance of supporting other local businesses so when they spend money, they do so within the community. Studies also reveal that local businesses recirculate a greater share of every dollar in the local economy as they source supplies from other local businesses and hire employees.
Reason #2 – Small businesses create jobs
According to the Australian Treasury, small businesses provide 46% of the total employment in the private sector industry, more than medium sized businesses and corporations. In Australia, regulators define small business differently. Fair Work Australia defines small business as those that employ 15 people or less while the Australian Bureau of Statistics defines it as businesses with less than 20 persons.
Ben and I run several small businesses where we employ four people. So we’ve not only created jobs for members of our community, but we in turn encourage our employees to shop locally so that other businesses may have an opportunity to create employment for others. In our community the unemployment rate is 8.66% higher than the Australian average which is currently 5.7%. As jobs continue to be a key issue, particularly in smaller rural communities such as the one I reside in, I think it’s important to ask oneself:
Where does the profit go and for whom does it benefit?
I care about supporting fellow members of my community and protecting Australian jobs, so I am known in the blogosphere for prioritising Australian brands.
Reason #3 – Personal investment builds solidarity
When you spend money with a local small business, you often get to know the family or the people who serve you. This fosters a stronger sense of community because this type of interaction builds trust, a foundation of any healthy happy community. Trust begets trust which helps people feel safe and reduces crime rates. This sense of camaraderie means that when there are “wins”, the community rejoices and likewise, when a small business shuts its doors, there is collective mourning and genuine interest to help the failed business owners start anew.
Now when chain stores close, such as Payless Shoes who announced on December 13 that they will close all 132 stores in February and lay off more than 730 people, we were shocked and dismayed. But unlike a local business that has rooted itself in its community, there just isn’t the same emotional attachment to a large company.
Reason #4 – Better customer service
Small businesses generally pride themselves on providing personalised service because that’s their distinct advantage over big box retailers. They usually don’t treat their customers like they are just a ‘number’. They value each customer and each interaction.
Furthermore, small business owners tend to go out of their way to order get stock in for you and they happily spend time explaining product details and answering your questions, particularly if you’re keen to learn more about their social impact and environmental and sustainability practices.
Reason #5 – It’s more eco-friendly
They say that shopping online is a sustainable option but the jury is out on this as we know that postal delivery trucks still need to move packages across vast distances sometimes even across countries. In addition, the outer packaging itself is often always made of single-use plastic.
Contrast this with a small business who tends to order in bulk and have items delivered all at once rather than having items shipped across states and countries. Furthermore, the local business tends to provide for locals keeping the travel distance to a minimum.
And if the product is made in your region and materials are sourced locally, well this gets a huge eco tick. Many local restaurants and cafes, for example, source produce from local growers, which minimises food miles and subsequently, reduces the use of fossil fuels.
Now over to you: Do you make a conscious effort to shop locally or is it less of a priority than other ‘ethical’ considerations? I’d love to know so feel free to share your views below.