How to save your town: why you should shop small and shop local.

How to save your town: why you should shop small and shop local.

Image Credit: Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Small towns are part of the fabric of our country. While I love the vibrant richness of our city CBDs, there is something so very kiwi and beautifully unique about our small towns that can never be replicated in an urban shopping complex . Many businesses that inhabit our small, rural communities are locally owned, boutique stores that offer the perfect antidote to the faceless internet marketplace or the sterile chain stores that can be found, with cookie cutter predictability, in the suburbia of our larger city shopping malls.

The symbiotic relationship between small business and community is an important one: both need each other to survive, and each needs to care for the other for mutual benefit. Lately the small town that I call home has, like many others , lost a concerning number of those precious small businesses. In their wake, they leave vacant spaces that either lay empty and hopeless, or are filled by chain stores that lack the charm and personality of the previous tenants. But then the best and most effective way to keep the businesses we want in our town is, quite simply, by supporting them. So why should you?

  • It makes good economic sense. In New Zealand, more than 500,000 locally owned and operated small businesses employ upwards of 600,000 people and contribute 28 per cent to our gross domestic product.

  • Small businesses are big employers, and provide a diverse range of employment options for locals , often with an understanding and flexibility that comes from owners being involved at all levels of their business.

  • Small businesses give back to their community: think about all those raffle prizes for school fundraisers and donations to community projects. These grass roots fundraising initiatives are vitally important, but are often too small scale for large businesses to even glance at.

  • Personal customer service: In a time where basic human interaction is becoming a rare commodity, small businesses offer personal, real engagement and often form enriching relationships with repeat customers.

  • Money spent in small businesses is more likely to stay in your community. Studies show that small business recycles around 48% of their earnings locally, compared with around 14% of big business income.

  • More diversity: instead of one large, department type store selling a multitude of retail products, we can have twenty small businesses selling a different range of goods, providing a more rich and alluring townscape and shopping experience.

  • Every time a small business opens its doors, it is the owners dreams come to life in bricks and mortar. The owner of that business is putting their faith and often their life savings into believing they have something worthwhile to offer, and that their community will step up and support them. By supporting that business, you are quite literally making someone’s dreams come true. And that is a good feeling for sure.

To help small business flourish, we need to support them both by choosing to spend our hard earned dollar with them when we can (every purchase helps, no matter how small), and by doing our best to champion them loudly and vocally as often as possible. Follow and share their posts on social media, and bring outside visitors to their doors whenever you can. Follow your local small town business association pages, and join any loyalty programs local businesses have on offer. The more we support local business, the better those businesses become, and the more chance we have of keeping them, and indeed our small towns, alive.

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© 2016 Claire Inkson. All photographs copyright Claire Inkson

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