By Kate Jackman-Atkinson, Neepawa Banner/Neepawa Press
This week we celebrate Small Business Week, but not only that; we are starting the most crucial couple of months for many of our retail small businesses. For retailers large and small, the Christmas season can make or break the year.
This time of year gives us a great opportunity to support local businesses and the value that they provide. Local businesses support community events, sponsor local sports teams and provide employment to our friends and neighbours. But they need customers in order to do this.
Looking through old photos of our main streets, we can see the decline in our business sectors. We used to have more stores, small and larger, more restaurants. Some of it is a function of rural depopulation, fewer people need fewer dresses or hammers or sandwiches, but shoppers have also made the conscious decision to shop elsewhere.
No store can be all things to all people and a store that offers a poor selection, is overpriced and offers bad service doesn’t really deserve our business, regardless of whether they are local or not. But as we weigh our shopping decisions, we do need to keep in mind the impact of these decisions and the added benefits of shopping local.
The multiplier effect has been well documented and shows that each dollar spent locally circulates back through the local economy. When money is spent outside the community, pretty well none of it comes back. However, for each $1 spent locally, $0.68 stays in the local economy, and it continues to circulate. Once that $1 has finished circulating, it’s actually worth $2 to $4 to the local economy.
Local business owners are also invested in the community, in every sense. They are unlikely to close up and move jobs elsewhere and they care about how the town looks and the amenities it offers. They get involved in clubs, organizations and local government to make their town a better place.
In 2010, the Harvard Business Review included a report saying, “Our research shows that regional economic growth is highly correlated with the presence of many small, entrepreneurial employers—not a few big ones.” In 2013, an Economic Development Quarterly study found a positive relationship between the density of locally owned firms and per capita income growth.
Even the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) promotes supporting local businesses. In 2013, CUPE B.C. launched the Ten Percent Shift campaign, which asks people to shift 10 percent of their household spending to local businesses. They partnered with Chambers of Commerce and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business on the campaign.
Our communities are small and our stores and restaurants don’t have every possible product or service that we want. But, as many of us hit the streets looking for gifts and treats to make this season bright, be sure to step into some local shops, craft sales and restaurants; you never know what you might find. Our local entrepreneurs are innovative and want to be successful and help their customers. We, in return, don’t want to lose them. Imagine what could be accomplished if we reconsidered our spending and kept 10 per cent more closer to home?
Editor’s note: Kate is away this week and suggested we run this editorial from 2015, which remains as relevant today as it was then.