The executive director of the Nelson Chamber of Commerce doesn’t want you to forget local businesses during the Christmas shopping season. File photo

COLUMN: Shopping locally stimulates the economy

Tom Thomson wants shoppers to remember Nelson businesses during the season

By Tom Thomson

For many of us, holiday shopping lists still 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, 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 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.

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 homeowners, we have watched our monthly bills increase dramatically through the years. For businesses, take those expenses, double them, or even more, 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 business levies. Water, sewer, and hydro costs continue a steep upward curve for homeowners, but for businesses, the local commercial tax multiplier is over two times what residential tax increases have been, and utility rates for water, sewer, hydro etc. are also at a fixed rate higher than personal residences.

In some ways, I get it. By shopping online, 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 with product knowledge you won’t find online, plus home-grown 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 that most business owners employ an array of supporting services by buying locally themselves. They hire architects, designers, cabinet shops, sign makers and building contractors/developers for construction and local accountants, insurance brokers, computer consultants, and attorneys to help run it.

Local owners, typically having invested much of their life savings in their businesses, have a natural interest in the community’s long-term health.

As a community we should continue to Think Local First so shopping locally is our first choice. We have wonderful retail, accommodation, 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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