We often find ourselves complaining that our high streets and towns and villages are becoming like ‘ghost towns’ with fewer shops, pubs and local businesses but a plethora of empty properties, charity shops and phone outlets. There is plenty of research that will tell you that it is because we seldom buy local anymore.
Superstores and chain stores are amazing places to buy what you need (and what you don’t!) under one roof. They also keep a large number of (often poorly paid) staff employed. However they do not boost the local economy. They sell cheaply but the profits go into a big pot for the stock holders and executives’ wages.
Their prices are competitive because they buy in huge quantities at cheap rates and over inflate their prices for short periods so that they can appear to offer huge discounts. This is often at the expense of the cheap labour in the countries of origin. A large number of those countries don’t follow minimum wage strategies or environmental policies that are affecting the global economy. This sometimes has life threatening effects on their employees.
Also the goods are often of poor quality and the transportation costs are high and environmentally damaging. As a result local producers and farmers are regularly forced to sell at a loss and many go out of business every year. These aspects are seldom considered or we conveniently manage to forget them when we spot a bargain.
Benefits of buying local
Buying locally from small businesses has many beneficial effects for the community.
- keep your hard earned money in the local community.
- are unique. They look and feel different to the generic big stores.
- help a street to look vibrant and dynamic encouraging more shoppers.
- staff in have better product knowledge and are usually experts in their field.
- promote healthy competition and competitive pricing.
- create happy customers and repeat customers.
- enable traditional family owned businesses to thrive.
- strengthen the local economy.
- help local entrepreneurs to get started.
- invest in local people. They’re the largest employers nationally and most local jobs.
- usually pay higher wages than a national chain.
- tend to support local charities.
- support local tradesmen.
- make shopping a more sensory and social experience.
- value customers more. Therefore the service and after sales is likely to be better.
- support the area where you work, live and play.
- encourage face-to-face interaction. They help fix problems so less hanging on the phone for ages.
- are real people to talk to and have a conversation with.
Small businesses equals big communities
Many small local businesses do not make huge profits. Often the profits they do make go into funding things like the upkeep of the property, advertising, rates, rent, printing and wages. This then puts that money straight back into the community and a healthy local community needs that money to thrive. Research shows that just a £10 spend with a local independent shop puts an extra £50 back into the local economy by that money going into nearby shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs. Thus keeping this money re-circulating at a local level.
The tax burdens on a local community can be higher if a town is filled with national companies because they are often given tax incentives to move to a town but they can pay less in taxes which means that local residents end up paying more.
There is also the increase of road traffic and the thousands of tonnes of packaging that we should all consider when we don’t buy locally! Consumers are starting to realise the results of their shopping habits as more and more local amenities and shops disappear, villages are losing their small community atmosphere and shopping is becoming more generic.
So before you buy from a multi-national company or a superstore or online check whether your local small businesses can provide what you need. It may not always be as convenient, or quite as cheap, but you will be helping to keep the spirit of the town going and helping your local community in many different ways.