The arrival of another Christmas season is a good time to review how and where we spend our consumer dollars.
While online shopping is fast, convenient and allows for quick price comparisons for the thrifty shopper, it often comes with hidden drawbacks, such as postage or delivery costs and the question as to whether goods will actually arrive in time for Christmas. Heading to the mall, for many, is about as appealing as taking a dip in the shark tank at Sydney Aquarium – and possibly less safe – but the advantage of finding everything under one tinsel-decked roof is undeniable.
Research is showing, however, that increasingly, shoppers are turning to their local high streets.
The economic benefits of shopping locally are well documented. While multi-national chains write their own rules and often have negative impacts far beyond the sight of the individual consumer, local businesses can generate wealth in ways that are both equitable and sustainable.
Research in 2010 found that for every hundred dollars spent in a local bookstore, $45 stayed in the local economy. Conversely, for every hundred spent at a chain bookstore, only $13 stayed in the local community. The key differences are that local shops are owned and managed locally, are more likely to use local banking, accounting and legal firms, and local suppliers. Small businesses create local jobs and this, in turn, puts more money back into the local economy.
When you shop locally, the person serving you at the counter is often the person who owns the shop. Their children go to the local school, they pay rates to the council and taxes to the government. Personal contact also means that if they don’t have what you want, they are more likely to be able to source it quickly through their local supply chain.
British economist and local economics advocate, Helena Norberg-Hodge, describes the difference between local and global consumption by saying that, “in the global economy it’s as though our arms have become so long that we can’t see what our hands are doing, but when the economy operates on a more human scale, we can see the impact of our choices.”
Making a purchase online, while it has the advantage of convenience, will not create a single local job. The taxes paid by the online business will not provide schools or medical facilities in your area nor will you know whether the product has been sourced ethically or sustainably.
That trip to the mall might net you a car full of Christmas goodies in a single morning, but most of those goodies will be from stores with offshore parent companies that pay little or no tax in Australia. You’ll also have I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas and/or Frosty the Snowman in your head for the next two days. Is it really worth it?
This festive season get with the growing local trend: farmers markets, local craftspeople, high street retailers. Shop local and have a great holiday season.
* This blog entry was first published as an article in The District Bulletin