COLUMN: Let’s keep your money circulating in the region

Chamber of Commerce executive director Tom Thomson on buying locally

By Tom Thomson

Black Friday! Cyber Monday! Those are ominous sounding terms. Black Friday was first used to describe the mayhem created the day after U.S. Thanksgiving when shopping traffic in downtown Philadelphia got so bad there were traffic jams.

In recent years, online sales have peaked on the Monday following, hence Cyber Monday. Both days are seen as the start of the Christmas retail season.

With the season now upon us, it’s a good time to reflect on the importance of supporting our business community by shopping locally.

With the abundance of shopping options available, from Internet shopping to urban excursions, the importance of shopping locally is easily forgotten.

But keeping money circulating in our greater community is an important consumer decision for local residents, and one that needs to be top of mind, something the Chamber of Commerce has been working on over the years.

There is no methodology at work keeping track of just how much money flows out of the region from shopping excursions, or online purchases, but you can safely say it is in the hundreds of thousands, or more likely millions of dollars annually.

Those dollars would be put to much better use keeping our own economy vibrant, even creating more employment.

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

On Saturday, merchants around Nelson are celebrating Customer Appreciation Day (www.nelsoncustomerday.ca). This event started as a grass roots initiative designed to keep more dollars locally rather than leaking out of the region.

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.

As a home owner, you watch your monthly bills increase dramatically through the years. For businesses, take those increases, and in some cases double them, add in payroll costs and other expenses and you see the pressures.

Costs of leases have been squeezed upwards as landlords pass along increases in municipal, regional or provincial tax levies. Water, sewer, and hydro costs continue on a steep upward curve for homeowners, but for businesses, the local tax multiplier is more than two times what residential tax increases have been, and utility rates for water, sewer hydro are also at a fixed rate higher than personal residences.

It takes a tremendous amount of energy and a varied and competent skill set to meet these challenges. Add in the additional problem of locals shopping outside the area, 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 a deal, find a greater selection and keep the costs lower for you and your family, but at what cost to your community?

For Customer Appreciation Day, make a point of checking out our local shops and restaurants. You will 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. Then, remember to Think Local First throughout the year.

In addition to the vital economy we all want, there are other benefits to shopping locally. For example, it is true that most business owners:

• Live here and have a vested interest in the overall well-being of our region

• Donate to local charities, sports teams, non-profit groups and housing initiatives

• Volunteer and actively contribute to getting things done in the community

• Retain local professional services and purchase goods from local producers and suppliers

It’s a shame that every year some local businesses disappear because they are unable to balance the revenue/expense challenge.

With a more concerted effort to shop locally, it’s possible some of these businesses could have survived, and the overall health of our community that much better off.

Moreover, when you consider the ever-increasing rise in fuel prices, the cost of accommodations and meals, and all the other associated costs, it is clearly more expensive to go on a shopping excursion outside the area. Tack on, say, $400 in expenses for a weekend shopping trip, plus the environmental impact and the savings aren’t remotely worthwhile.

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 consumers we need to adopt a Think Local First attitude.

We have wonderful and unique retail, accommodation, food and beverage, 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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