Tom Thomson. File photo

COLUMN: Nelson chamber director on the benefits of shopping locally

When was the last time Amazon sponsored your local theatre or soccer team?

By Tom Thomson

Black Friday! Cyber Monday! They are ominous sounding terms. Aren’t you glad we survived? We live in the age of online shopping. Most everything we might need is available with a few keystrokes. The lure of Amazon, with a multitude of merchandise options and free delivery, beckons. No traffic, no parking hassles, no crowds. Why, then, would we choose to shop locally?

The reasons for shopping locally can easily be forgotten. But the fact is, keeping money circulating in our greater community is an important consumer decision for us, and one that needs to be top of mind, something the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce has been working on over the years.

There is no real methodology to keeping track of how much money flows out of the area from shopping excursions, or online purchases, but you can safely say it is in the hundreds of thousands, or more likely millions of dollars. Those dollars would be put to much better use keeping our own economy vibrant, even creating more jobs.

Local shops, restaurants, and services create jobs that keep the economy stable, and the property taxes, sales taxes and payroll taxes help support services we have come to expect and what many deem essential to our community.

Shopping locally is the most basic form of trickle-down economics and we all stand to gain.

Successful businesses give thousands of dollars a year to much-needed local charities. A thriving business sector contributes to the coffers of the municipality, helping to fund all manner of public works — from parks to sidewalks — that enhance the quality of life for everyone.

As a homeowner, we have watched our monthly bills increase dramatically through the years. For businesses, take those expenses, double them, add in payroll costs and other business expenses and you see the pressures. Costs of leases have been squeezed upwards as landlords pass along increases in municipal, regional, and provincial tax levies. Water, sewer, and hydro costs continue a steep upward curve for homeowners, but for businesses, the local commercial tax multiplier is over twice what residential tax increases have been, and utility rates for water, sewer, and hydro are also higher than personal residences.

It takes a tremendous amount of energy and a varied and competent skillset to meet these challenges. Add in the additional problem of locals shopping at mega malls or those that never leave the comfort of their own home and spend hundreds of dollars with a click of the mouse on their computer.

In some ways, I get it. You are just trying to get the best deal, find a greater selection and keep the costs lower for you and your family, but at what cost to our community?

When you shop in our region, you’ll find our local businesses offer a great selection with competitive pricing and quality that’s second to none. Local experts have product knowledge you won’t find online, plus homegrown customer service and easy return policies.

In addition to the vital economy we all want, there are other benefits to shopping locally. For example, it is true most business-owners employ an array of supporting services by buying locally themselves. They hire architects, designers, cabinet shops, signmakers and building contractors for construction. They hire local accountants, insurance brokers, computer consultants, and attorneys to help run their shops.

Local owners, typically having invested much of their life savings in their businesses, have a natural interest in the community’s long-term health. Community-based businesses are essential to charitable endeavors; their owners frequently serve on local boards and support numerous causes as they volunteer and actively contribute to getting things done.

When was the last time Amazon sponsored your local theatre or soccer team?

When you consider the ever-increasing cost of fuel and the cost of accommodations and meals, it is more expensive to go on a shopping excursion outside the area. Tack on $300 in expenses to do an overnight shopping trip and you’d need to be saving $300 or $400 in purchases to make the trip break even — and let’s face it, that’s not likely to happen.

This past Saturday, Nov. 24, local merchants celebrated Customer Appreciation Day. This event started as a grassroots initiative designed to keep more dollars locally rather than leaking out of the region south of the border or into the Okanagan Valley. It has grown over the years as businesses thank customers for their continued support and show that service, local knowledge and expertise are important to keeping a strong and diverse retail sector.

How do we make shopping locally a habit rather than an idea? The best place to start as business-owners is to ensure that we are providing the products our customers want, at a competitive price, with excellent customer service.

As a community we should continue to think local first. We have wonderful retail, accommodations, dining, and service providers in the Nelson area. If you find what you want locally, if the price is competitive and the quality meets your needs, your decision should be easy: Buy it here.

Tom Thomson is the executive director of the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce

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