All Canadians want a thriving economy, but we’ll never have one if we don’t all share the responsibility for achieving it.
Every one of us, consumers and business owners alike, makes choices every day that impact the strength of our economy, now and in the future. Until we acknowledge that each choice we make, however small, has a consequence, we won’t see the kind of prosperity we seek in our communities. Making a commitment to shopping local whenever possible is a great place to start.
When it comes to shopping local, many challenges and barriers exist for both consumers and business owner/operators—the problems are on both sides of the cash register. Economic leakage is happening more every day across the country as a result of online shopping, cross-border shopping or visiting distant locales.
So what does it mean to shop local? Shopping local can stretch past the limits of our corner grocery store. It may be showing our economic support for the community 20 minutes down the road or looking at broader regional initiatives. What’s good for the community next door is good for the communities that we live in, too.
Here’s just one example of how where we spend our money can shape our future: one locally spent dollar can turn over in the community about six times. In the six-turnover scenario, the benefit is that the equivalent of about $1.65 for every dollar spent remains in the community, providing a sustainable economic climate for local business. Consider what our communities will look like if those dollars are regularly spent outside of the local economy. Making informed purchasing choices in the long term is one way we can all contribute to maintaining and developing thriving local economies.
Local store owners have tough decisions to make about how they can best give back to the community. Businesses are often asked to support and assist in fundraising efforts for youth sports, community events and charitable organizations. Pragmatism dictates that the consumers who support their local businesses will be the ones rewarded with commercial support.
Small businesses also struggle to be competitive when faced with competition from corporate purchasing power. Pricing structures are passed on to the consumer not because of a business mark-up, per se, but as a reflection of wholesale cost. (Mark-ups are quite comparable in Canada and the U.S., by the way.)
Consumers may struggle to support small business when they feel that the customer service is poor or the selections are inadequate. As consumers, it’s important for us to play a role in effectively communicating our concerns and needs to the business we frequent. Commerce is anything but a one-way street, and it’s up to business owners to ensure that those needs and concerns are heard and, wherever possible, addressed.
Taking ownership of the impact of our purchasing choices and service-related decisions will help to shape what our local communities will look like in the future. Many local chambers of commerce are actively involved in shop local campaigns, as are labour unions, advocating for their business members through building positive community awareness. With that awareness, commerce and consumer can be brought together in a way that ensures our communities’ economic potential moves from dream to reality in the years to come.
Let’s all work together to support the economic vibrancy of the places we live in.
Alex Atamanenko, MP
BC Southern Interior