Festive music playing, lights twinkling and the town bustling with Christmas shoppers trying to get those last minute gifts. The traditional time of giving and receiving is once more upon us and your local shops are stocked up with all of your Christmas supplies and gifts. What’s more, shopping locally has been proven to put more of your hard earned money back into your community, as opposed to shopping at large chain stores or buying online.
The largest national ‘Shop Small’ research report ever conducted – The Economy of Shopping Small: Back Your Backyard (2017) – uncovered the ‘Boomerang Dollar’ effect, which found that on average, 42 cents of every dollar spent at a small business flows back into the local community. This money is reinvested into salaries for local residents, using local businesses to purchase supplies, supporting charitable causes in the area, investment in local schools and sponsorships. Yet despite this, over 86 per cent of shoppers said that they could do more to support local businesses.
Small businesses employ almost 7 million Australians, often giving young Australians their first pay check, and are essential in providing a thriving high street, which in turn encourages local tourism and a prosperous community. A well-established high street with small, local businesses are an essential ingredient of a successful community and encourage towns to prosper. The changing nature of consumer demand over the years has meant that small businesses have had to react to those challenges and evolve to provide a more comprehensive service.
Take well known local store Ricarda’s, based on York Street for 15 years they stock a variety of beautiful clothes and shoes, quality gifts and homewares and also have two other shops in Perth, as well as an online store. Ricarda and her husband moved to Albany 35 years ago after visiting the area and falling in love with it.
“We have access to a very large selection,” says owner Ricarda Loecker, “So if you see something on our website which we don’t have in our Albany store (or vice versa) it can still be delivered here within 24 hours. This way you get all the advantages of shopping online and all the advantages of shopping locally too. If the item is not quite right then it can be simply returned, either here or at one of our shops in Perth.” The added benefits of this are that personal touch that face to face shopping provides, as Ricarda and her team of local, friendly and knowledgeable staff will help you find just what you are looking for.
There’s no doubt that shoppers habits have changed over the years, “When it was the mining boom people had a lot more disposable income,” Ricarda says, “But now people want to spend their money more wisely, purchasing good quality, classic items rather than spur of the moment impulse buys.”
The benefits of shopping locally are multitude. Being able to see, touch and feel the item, as well as trying them on for size if needed, is often the fun part of the whole experience. From the moment that you walk into a shop the style and ambiance of the place surrounds you; music playing softly in the background as you drift along the rows, browsing for that perfect item, all of our senses are all engaged in the experience.
At Christmastime this is even more true, when finding the perfect present needs more thought and attention to detail than every day shopping.
Your local shopkeepers, farmers and craftsmen are stocked up with items made locally and sold on a small scale, and this also supports the individuality of your town and provides much needed local employment opportunities.
Aaron and his wife Karen are the owners of Icky Finks Variety Store which sells a wide selection of craft supplies, gifts, decorations and dress up and is open 7 days per week. They employ 6 local people who welcome you into the shop with a friendly “hello” and a warm smile and provide excellent customer service. It is always a pleasure to visit their shop and the choice and quality of the merchandise is also impressive. Originally starting with the $2 Store on York street they moved into the larger premises due to supply and demand and 16 ½ years later are still going strong. Aaron and Karen believe passionately in good customer service and rewarding customers for their loyalty. They run a reward points system and have the “boomerang bags” at the entrance to help customers whilst promoting repeat business.
“Sometimes people come to the shop just for a bit of company,” Aaron says, “It can sometimes be the only interaction that people, especially older people, get some days. We put the access ramp in so that everyone can easily get into the store and we work hard to make it feel fun, welcoming and friendly,”
They also support smaller local business men and women by being a stockist of their products too. “I think that people like to shop locally because it’s convenient and they get satisfaction from assisting their own communities,” Aaron explained, “We are really grateful to provide our customers with that service.”
Local business owners often support each other, using local establishments whenever possible to strengthen those important links. Chain stores and online stores, on the other hand, tend to get their supplies from centralised warehouses and so the money isn’t re-invested in the area. When you shop locally, significantly more of that money then stays within the community.
When you know the people you’re buying local products and services from, you enjoy a personal connection that otherwise you wouldn’t have had. They know the products you buy or the services you request on a regular basis and can tailor-make their services and products to your exact needs.
If a local business wins an award or a business deal you feel you can join in with that celebration and feel pride in your area. Equally when a favourite local shop closes down you mourn the loss to your town as well as the inconvenience of having to source your supplies elsewhere.
Weekly Albany farmers markets are held in the centre of town every Saturday 8am-12 noon. When buying your produce from them the local farmers delight in telling you of the provenance of the food, along with some helpful tips and recipes. The selection is wide and varied, all grown in the Great Southern area and the quality is outstanding. As well as the obvious health benefits of buying fresh produce straight from the farmers, it is also thought that eating local honey can protect you against various allergies.
Local businesses give Albany its flavour and individuality and the unique combination of shops makes it different from any other place in the world, which also supports tourism in the area. By supporting these businesses you ensure that your town’s individual character is preserved as a living part of your community.
Buying local has benefits beyond mere convenience. When you support local business owners, you get a better level of service, as well as helping to make your community a better place to live. And what could be a more fitting gift for your town and community than the opportunity to grow and prosper this Christmas?