Why Buy Local?
There are many answers to this question, because the impetus behind buying local is different for each individual, and each family. The reasons can be economic, environmental, or often social, with each reason dovetailing and overlapping with the next. I find, however, that the argument against local business often comes down to an issue of cost, supply, and ignorance. Many families and individuals claim an inability to afford to shop at local businesses, and/or that their inventory cannot meet the demand required by a larger family. For others, shopping at national and international chain stores has become blind habit, and the question of where the money is flowing from, or where it flows to, becomes largely forgotten. When it comes to the notion of supporting local business, I have been accused of being both a romantic and an idealist, and often I am. But with the help of some research and critical thinking, I realized that the reasons to buy and shop local are painfully obvious, and far more logical than I ever gave them credit for.
The most obvious reason of all is quite simple: when you support local business, you support yourself. It’s one of the easiest ways to give back to the community that sustains you and to ensure its economic growth and vitality. Buying local ensures that the money you spend stays within your community and local economy, be it through supporting the family that owns the business who in turn spends money in the community and sustains it, or by giving a local business the opportunity to support other local businesses through its use of local marketing firms, service providers, etc. The fact of the matter is: a national chain does not, and often cannot, source its marketing dollars in the cities it occupies. That money goes towards sustaining a company, not a community. Conversely, local businesses are naturally predisposed to invest in the community. Not only is it home, and with that comes natural pride and a sense of ownership, they need the community to thrive in order for themselves to thrive, and as such are more likely to support the myriad festivals and initiatives, such as the E.A. Rawlinson Centre, Alfred Jenkins Field House, Taste of Prince Albert, and Street Fair, that take place in the community. The support of local business is in part what created and continues to sustain these facilities and festivals. Local businesses also pay local taxes and are more likely to inhabit existing infrastructure, which can lead to revitalization initiatives that can turn dead business neighborhoods into neighborhoods that enhance the local economy—the current revitalization effort in Saskatoon’s Riversdale neighborhood, and of course our own Main Street Prince Albert initiative, are great examples of this. Neither could be accomplished without local business.
The sociocultural impetus behind supporting local business is also significant. The individuality of each community is imperative to its success—a fact that is often lost in the economic struggle. Globalization, in terms of the homogeneity of consumer culture, can be detrimental to a community in terms of investment opportunity. Investors often look for cities with a vibrant, distinct, and diverse character and culture, and local businesses are the largest contributors to that. As well, having a variety of local businesses in a community drives competition, facilitating lower prices and a dedicated attention to the needs of the consumer. At the end of the day, local business owners have no choice but to be aware of what their consumer wants, because the consumer is the single engine behind the continuation of their business. Local business owners must look for the niche that is not being addressed in a community, thus creating a variety of specialty stores engineered towards the needs of the consumer.
These are just a few of the reasons why buying local is such an important part of supporting any community. Since beginning my blog last summer, I have realized that community is a powerful thing. I have seen what happens in the absence of it, and what can happen when members of the community assume a sense of ownership and decide to take back what was always theirs. Buying local is part of assuming that ownership. Increasingly, I find that the question of supporting local business is becoming far less of a why, and far more of a why not.
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