[Watershed Presents]

Raise Your Hand

Raise your hand if you like a lively main street – real stores with products you can see and feel and humans who answer questions without going “beep.”

Raise your hand if you like having shops and restaurants nearby, on streets where you can wave at folks you know. It’s easy to take local stores for granted, until one day we look around and they’re gone. Raise your hand if you felt a chill during COVID lockdowns seeing shops and cafés dark and empty – and give a cheer for the ones that served us on the sidewalk, even delivering to our door to help us through.

When municipalities urge us to Shop Local, they’re not just trying to drum up business, they’re aiming to preserve things that keep our towns alive. Local shop owners are like roots that hold Main Street in place, while billionaire owners of online “shops” wouldn’t notice if Main Street slid down a sinkhole. So here are ten good reasons to shop local.

  1. You support your community and your neighbours, who in turn are there to serve you personally.
  2. You strengthen your local economy and nurture future growth. In Canada, it’s estimated that for every $100 spent at a local business $68 remains in the community.
  3. Small businesses add character to a town. Big-box stores are handy but not exactly charming.
  4. By shopping locally, you help create more regional jobs and opportunities As small businesses grow, they employ more people. And local businesses contribute way more time and money to local charities and fundraisers than big corporations.
  5. For every local purchase you make, the business owner pays their share of local business taxes. So your loonies and toonies don’t go jingling off to Switzerland or the Cayman Islands – they stay in your community.
  6. Local owners know their employees and can help them build careers.
  7. You get more personalized service in a place where people know your name, or at least look happy to see you because they remember you. That’s rare in big-box or online retailers. (A computer might welcome you back but it doesn’t really mean it!)
  8. Local shopping is fun! City folks who move to small towns are amazed at how many people they wave and chat to when they go to the store.
  9. Diverse local shops attract out-of-towners. Tiffany Spencer of Belleville’s Downtown District BIA reports there are 201 small businesses in the compact area of “old Belleville” alone, far removed from that city’s strip malls, mega-malls and big-box stores. “It’s kind of magical in December, with the holiday lights and music.” Strolling on sidewalks and window-shopping are physical experiences in a way online shopping is not.
  10. Small towns tend not to have big employers. What they do have is entrepreneurs who aim to provide what local people want and need. Did you know small businesses employ well over 80% of working Canadians? We work for them, they work for us, not shareholders or oligarchs. Stop me if I’m preaching.
  11. Okay, let’s make it eleven good reasons to shop local. This year, online orders can’t be relied on. Hundreds of thousands of container ships languish outside harbours around the world, their goods going nowhere fast. Our local shops have inventory, here and now. Go, browse, touch and feel, try it on and take it home.

There really isn’t a downside to shopping locally. We had a glimpse of what life would be like without friendly, local, lit-up shops and it didn’t feel good. If a fraction of what we spend online was diverted back to local stores, all our Main Streets could be lively and communities could thrive. There is a lot we can’t control these days – but shopping local is in our power.

Story by:
Janet Davies

[Winter 2021/2022 departments]