It’s a familiar refrain at this time of year: shop local because it’s the right thing to do.
Of course, it’s also the smart thing to do (if you’re reading this column, it’s safe to assume you know that).
First of all, spending money at businesses in your community creates jobs. And not just frontline staff and employees. Entrepreneurs take on tremendous risk to set up shop. They work long hours to provide goods and services tailored to our community. The byproducts of those efforts are one-of-a-kind retail and dining experiences that make Greater Victoria such a desirable location to live, work and visit. And while tourism provides a big boost that helps our city punch above our weight, it’s the year-round patronage of local residents that allows small businesses to keep the lights on beyond summer.
Another consideration is that local business people support your quality of life in ways that ordering from eBay or Amazon never will. According to ThinkLocalVictoria.com, as much as “three times more money stays in the local economy when you buy from locally owned businesses.”
When the kids in your neighbourhood need someone to sponsor their sports team or band trip, it’s always local businesses that step up to help. They are also the biggest supporter of charities, non-profits, and all of the organizations we rely on to maintain a healthy and vibrant community.
The great news is there is an appetite for local goods and services. For example, the Island Good campaign, announced last year to help shoppers identify products from Vancouver Island, has exceeded expectations and led to an average 16.4 per cent increase in sales for branded items.
The Vancouver Island Economic Alliance commissioned the initial project, which was designed and led by Victoria’s Hot House Marketing. You might have noticed the new brand at participating grocery stores. The ultimate goal is to mark every product as “grown” or “made on Vancouver Island” so we can more easily find them and buy them.
People want to shop local, even as the way we shop is changing. More and more, consumers are using their smart phones to augment their shopping experience. They want to engage over social media but they also want to enjoy life experiences in their neighbourhoods. We need to embrace this as an opportunity and take advantage of modern methods to reach target markets.
Even the smallest businesses should have a web presence and a listing in The Chamber’s business directory — it really is one of the best ways to help raise your profile by ranking higher in search-engine results. The Chamber directory is also the best guide to local shopping you’ll find!
Enjoy your holiday shopping. Keep it local and help your friends and family. Supporting small businesses will ensure our regional economy continues to remain healthy and vibrant for years to come.
Catherine Holt is CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce.
This column was originally published in the December 2019 edition of the Business Examiner.