American shoppers get an early start on Black Friday sales. Tom Thomson says the real gift you can give Nelson this holiday season is by shopping local. Photo: Dave Logan

American shoppers get an early start on Black Friday sales. Tom Thomson says the real gift you can give Nelson this holiday season is by shopping local. Photo: Dave Logan

NEWS AND VIEWS: Small business is Big Business in Nelson and area

Tom Thomson writes about the importance of holiday shopping to our local businesses

by Tom Thomson

Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted our lives, habits, and businesses. Through it all, small business entrepreneurs in Nelson and area have shown resiliency, courage, and a willingness to adapt to this rapidly changing environment. The Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce applauds our local business community for their dedication and persistence, and the way they pivoted back to success, even with some trepidation. Who would blame them for wondering what’s next?

Small businesses represent the furnace that powers our local economy in Nelson and area, and they play a critical role in creating jobs at home. We can never take small businesses for granted. These businesses employ your friends and family, generate important taxation for the many services we have come to desire and even expect, and are often the first in line with a donation to your favourite non-profit or charity.

It’s your favourite coffee shop, the outdoor store that provides the gear for your skiing, hiking, or biking or the trusted contractor who does your renos or house building – small businesses have a knack for becoming the cornerstone of our communities, driving the local economy, creating jobs and constantly redefining the unique culture of our neighbourhoods.

For many of us, holiday shopping lists linger as we hit the streets hoping to stretch our spending as far as possible. 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.

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.

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 or region. 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.

Oftentimes, we develop strong connections with the hard-working small business owners in our communities, a connection that is also deeply shared by our provincial economy.

The pandemic really drove home the fact that online stores like Amazon were bringing home bucket loads of cash each hour, while small independent stores in many communities suffered or closed. Let that sink in a bit and remember that when you sit at that keyboard and order something from those small-business-killer websites.

When was the last time Amazon sponsored your local soccer team, or supported Mural Fest or a performance at the Capitol Theatre? 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?

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 with product knowledge you won’t find online, plus home-grown customer service and easy return policies. You’ll also find unique one-of-a-kind gifts only a local artisan can create.

You will be hearing a lot more of the Think Local First mantra over the coming months. In fact, the chamber is kicking off a social media campaign Dec. 10 to 21 as we support local business and reward the community with close to $2,500 dollars in gift cards from local stores, restaurants, theatres, craft breweries, personal services like a day at the spa or whatever your heart desires.

As a community we should continue to Think Local First so shopping locally is our first choice. 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 Thompson is executive director of the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce