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News • 2021-09-09

Buy local, by Stewart Russell

Some businesses are struggling with the latest lockdown levels, including retailers watching many customers move to online shopping - often with global companies.

Consumers are confronted with ever-increasing choices about where and how to buy and do business.  But community minded people will always try to shop and do business locally. Doing so saves jobs, businesses and leads to a robust local economy.

Few would argue that we all rely a great deal on our local community. Whether it be to provide jobs and incomes for ourselves or family, essential medical services, footpaths, or shops, the stronger the community, the better off we all are. Our businesses make our towns special and unique. A wise school, for example, will realise that the more they do business locally, the more they do to create job opportunities for their students. And stronger youth employment generates more energy in the community, less crime, greater fundraising opportunities – a stronger community.

Financial benefits include the simple money-go-round principle. A dollar spent locally can lead to another dollar spent locally and so on. A story relayed to me by a well-known local businessman, illustrates this:

“A man pays $50 to a local restaurant for his takeaway family meal.  The restauranter uses the $50 to pay the local butcher for the last week’s meat delivery.  The butcher uses this to pay the electrician who fixed his fridge.  The electrician uses this to pay the local mechanic who repaired his van.  The mechanic used this to pay the plumber who fixed his leaking tap.  The plumber used the money to buy a takeaway from the restaurant.”

In this simple example, we can see that the initial spend of $50 has resulted in $300 of local economic activity, with locals supporting locals.

As far as cost is concerned, yes, sometimes it may be cheaper to buy a product elsewhere. But often it is not. Professional services, such as accountants, lawyers, and so on, are usually cheaper in towns, than in the cities. And local shops and businesses will often try and meet the market if they are given the opportunity to do so.

There will be occasions when the local supplier cannot compete on price.  Maybe the local operator has additional overheads, such as greater staff and office costs or cannot access large discounts from their suppliers.  We the customer need to decide whether it is better to pay a bit extra for the advantage of doing business locally, which may benefit the community as a whole. When buying online consider where your dollar is going, is it New Zealand or overseas?

Another way you can help is by sharing or liking local businesses’ social media posts.

We should also be able to get better service, and after sales service from local business. The challenge to local business, of course, is to try and ensure that the experience they give to their customers is a good one. If a business is finding that people are voting with their feet, then the business must ask itself: “Do people enjoy doing business in this place?” And find how to make that happen.

It’s often tempting to do our shopping online or out of town, and we all do it to some degree, particularly during COVID lockdowns. Some a little, some a lot. But the cost of doing so is not just the price.

“He waka eke noa – we are all in this together.”

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