Sharing is Nice, but Buying is Better.
I’ve shared a few of them on Facebook through A Guide to Cardinia, and on my personal page. And they’re good, and right. It’s a great way to support small, local business without spending any money, but it’s not enough.
Save Money Now vs. Save Money Later
Fact: supermarkets have recorded a massive increase in sales leading up to and through the Covid-19 restrictions. There are a few reasons behind this – panic buying, the restrictions themselves being the most obvious. Dig a little deeper and we find, however, the most basic reason for it is the cost of living. Now I get that – money is tight.
Over the same period, inflation ran at about 61% – which by itself negates any real wage increase 3.
Where it gets interesting is in the cost of living, not CPI (Consumer Price Index). (See this article for why). Over the last twenty years, the cost of secondary school education has risen by over 200%, medical and hospital by almost 200%, electricity by 194%, primary/preschool by about 160% and insurance by just under 120% 4,5 .
What’s this got to do with buying local? Everything. With less disposable income and rising price of essentials, people are looking for the lowest possible spend on wants, and in the short-term, it’s cheaper to shop at a big chain store. I offer no judgement here; it can be very hard to balance the weekly budget, but it must be remembered that this is placing immediate personal needs over longer-term broader benefits. This is what the big chains cater to, and why they are the competitor that small business needs to compete against.
Why Support Local?
So why is buying from a small business better in the longer-term?
- Buying local promotes agriculture: We are – despite the massive growth through central Cardinia – an agricultural area, and agriculture is one of the major foundations of our economy.
- You will keep money in the local economy. Research shows that for every $100 spent in a locally owned business roughly $75 is likely to stay within the community versus less than $50 when spent with a major chain.
- Buying local creates employment and keeps people employed. Roughly 50% of Australia’s employment comes through small business. Over the last few months, the number of jobs advertised has dropped significantly, and of the five areas that A Guide to Cardinia Employment Opportunities covers, Cardinia has had the most noticeable drop in advertisements.
- It’s better for the environment. Buying locally reduces the environmental impact of your purchase, and this is particularly true of food. Buying produce grown locally has a dramatically different environmental impact than something imported from, say, Queensland, or internationally. Sustainable Table have created a very handy list of steps to sustainability when it comes to buying food, that comes with this brilliant pyramid image.
- Local businesses create character & prosperity: With the increasing urbanisation of Cardinia Shire, there are many noting with dismay the loss of character in our towns. The unique character of our communities is defined in no small part by the presence of local businesses. Studies have shown satisfaction with where you live actually increases with the distinctiveness of your community (not to mention the value of your home and property). Plus, having unique businesses will enhance tourism in the region (and tourism is a growing draw-card in Cardinia).
- Local business owners support the community: local businesses have far more invested in shaping their community, are less likely to leave, and are more committed to the community’s welfare and future.
So, what’s the point? It’s great to share and like on social media, but we have to start putting our money where our mouse is. This does not have to be a 100% “I’m never shopping at a chain store again”. It can be a gradual change. Just one thing a week: for example, start with your meat or fish or vegetables – switch out the supermarket for the (healthier, fresher) options of your local butcher, fishmonger or grocer. Or, don’t buy that birthday card from the chain store – go get a hand-made card from one of our local craft makers.
Our shopping habits need to change – we are only part of the problem, but we are entirely the solution.
You could start here: Shop Local. Shop Cardinia