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NEWS AND VIEWS: Don’t forget your community when holiday spending

Tom Thomson writes about keeping it local during a critical month for Nelson’s businesses
Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce executive director Tom Thomson. Photo: Tyler Harper

by Tom Thomson

Executive director of the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce

For many of us, holiday shopping lists still linger as we hit the streets hoping to stretch our spending as far as possible. The cost of being in business these days is going through the roof. Labour, taxes, costs of goods and services, government fees, the list is endless.

At the same time, the costs for individuals and families continues to rise, as inflationary pressures rise monthly. It is likely most people will spend less this year to stretch the family finances to cover all of the day-to-day living expenses.

When you can, keep your shopping close to home and buy locally where a purchase at a local store or restaurant has the greatest community impact. The reasons for shopping locally can easily be forgotten in a cyber shopping world, 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 Chamber of Commerce has been working on over the years

All these folks – shopkeepers, restaurateurs, retailers, service providers, professionals and more – live and work in our region and they’re already spending their dollars in our community. They pay for salaries, supplies, rent, taxes, utilities and so on. They also stay in the community and buy their groceries, clothe their kids and rely on local services such as hairdressers and accountants. The effects are far-reaching and important.

The fourth quarter of the year is significant for businesses but for retail it is critical. This is when they make a substantial part of their annual revenue, counting on a surplus in the last final months to keep the doors open in the cold months of January and February. Now is the time to show your support for the work they do.

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?

There is no real methodology 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 millions of dollars. Those dollars would be put to much better use keeping our own regional economy vibrant, creating or at the very least retaining 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. When was the last time Amazon sponsored your local soccer team, or supported Mural Fest or a performance at the Capitol Theatre?

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 through taxes, 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, provincial business levies. Water, sewer and hydro costs continue a steep upward curve for homeowners, and more than two times more for local businesses.

In some ways, I get it. By shopping online, you’re 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?

Local owners, typically having invested much of their life savings in their businesses, have a natural interest in the community’s long-term health. They are local experts with customer service at the forefront.

As a community we should continue to Think Local First. 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 executive director of the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce.