Updated: Jan 30, 2021
Choosing to shop at small businesses has always been important for local economic development. But with covid-19 and all of its subsequent financial uncertainties, being conscious about these decisions, as consumers, is more important now than ever. Next time you’re deciding where to spend your money, consider the benefits of supporting your local economy – especially in today’s environment.
Small businesses are relying on your patronage in order to survive and persevere. Every dollar matters. We understand the convenience of large corporate chains, but think about it - shopping at independently owned stores keeps funds within the community instead of going directly to the CEOs of nationally-owned corporations. You’re putting money in the pockets of your neighbours, friends, and families – and for them, every transaction could be absolutely essential for their own financial stability. You could be helping a little girl get dance lessons, a local ball team to get a sponsorship, or helping parents put food on their table – all while keeping those funds circulating from one local business to another.
Local products have a small carbon footprint in comparison to their imported counterparts, which are almost always being delivered by truck, ship, or air from thousands of miles away before it reaches the shelf - not to mention the amount of plastic, cardboard, and other materials that these products are wrapped with in order to reach you. By buying food and goods with fewer miles, you’re cutting back on air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel consumption, and ultimately your own carbon footprint.
Your values and desires are much more influential to your local community businesses than to big box stores. Local business owners are more inclined to offer unique goods and services that are tailored to meet the needs of their customer base, often ordering or making products specifically because they know certain people will buy them. Secondly, when you shop local, you get to see exactly where and how your purchases are made, holding farmers and business owners accountable for the sustainability and ethics of their practices.
You’re also supporting the local workforce. In Canada, small businesses employ more than two-thirds of the labour force and account for the majority of all job growth and creation. Many “behind-the-scenes" positions need to be filled when small businesses thrive and expand. You’re not only supporting the cashiers and store managers, but a multitude of small business entrepreneurs such as web and graphic designers, accountants, administrators, IT techs, event planners, and more.
Additionally, local businesses are geared more towards safeguarding the community’s unique characteristics – its culture, history, food, art, music, and architecture. By supporting small scale commerce, you’re helping these businesses preserve the customs that corporate chains disregard and homogenize.
HOW TO BUY LOCAL DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
You can continue to support small businesses even during lockdowns and store closures. Presently, most local stores are doing all that they can to continue to keep their customers satisfied and their employees working while staying within the guidelines of covid-19 safety protocols. Here’s how you can make a difference:
1. Order takeout. Bars and restaurants may not be able to allow dining in, but takeout is usually still an option.
2. Curbside pick up. Many places are now offering call-in and online ordering and allow you to pick up your purchases outside the building.
3. Purchasing gift cards. Even if your favourite places to eat or shop are temporarily closed or have limited services, they will benefit from the ongoing revenue they receive via gift cards, which can always be used when their services return to normal.
4. Entertainment. If you’re quarantining and looking for new ways to entertain your family, look towards your local businesses for games or activities, reading materials, or even online streaming from your local theatre.
5. Restocking groceries. Some markets and farm shops are still open with a modified curbside option and still have fresh produce and non-perishables available for you.
6. Spread the word. Don’t assume that all of your friends and family know about a business just because it's local. If you’ve found a great local place to shop, let others know where you got your products and how happy you were with the quality and service.
Give yourself the satisfaction of knowing you are helping your family, friends, neighbours, and the planet. Remember that resilient small businesses create resilient communities. When we all make a conscious effort to support each other, we can continue to sustain vibrant and healthy downtown cores in all of our local communities.