Hale 12 Week Masthead

The Time is Now to Shop Local

Lauren Briggs

sally-braddonI thought we had an intruder in the house the other night. My daughter was in her highchair in the dining room and I was in the bathroom running her a much needed bath. I heard a noise at the front door; I turned off the water and waited. There was another noise, then footsteps heavy on our wooden floor. Could it be my husband? No, it was only 6:50pm, it was too early for him to be home. I wiped my hands on my jeans and called out “Is that you?”

Now, I don’t know what I was expecting; would an intruder yell back “Yes it’s me,” and if they did, what would I do next? Come screaming out of the bathroom and attack the sucker like a crazed Mumma bear?  Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about that because my husband called back “Yep, I’m home.”

It was a nice surprise. After he released the baby from her highchair and brought her to the bathroom, he told me he was home early because they didn’t have many customers in the shop that day. Normally, serving customers means that he has to stay back after the shop has closed to complete other jobs like ordering and displaying stock, and responding to emails. But he had been able to complete all that work during the day. Apparently it had been quiet for the previous few days too.

The nice surprise of his early arrival suddenly became not so nice. In the weeks after the 2014 Budget was handed down, people already seem to be changing how they spend their money in Canberra. People are nervous about job losses, increased taxes (or levies if you prefer), and benefit cuts and they are changing their shopping habits, which then flows through to affect the rest of the community.  It’s not just retail outlets feeling the pinch either; a friend who teaches language in the evenings said that since the Budget was handed down, she’s had students cancel their lessons.

The interesting thing is that the 2014 Budget hasn’t been passed yet and its key principles may not get through if the Greens, Labor, and minor parties have anything to do with it.  But people are already scared and preparing for the worst by trying to save money. They spend less in general and by using the internet, they can choose to buy cheaper goods from overseas.

It’s an understandable reaction. But at this time, more than ever, it’s important to spend money locally.

It might be more expensive and it might be less convenient than clicking on the ‘Order Now’ button on a computer screen and waiting for the parcel to arrive.  But local, small businesses want and need customers in their shop.

It’s hard to run a small retail business, even when people are feeling secure and confident with the economy. Small, local retailers are competing with large international and online businesses for same customers. Often these international and online retailers don’t have the same restrictions and overheads that a traditional shopfront does. It’s not unusual for my husband to work ten hour plus days at the shop, then come home and get on the computer to work on the website, or answer questions on social media, or keep ploughing through his emails, while trying to juggle his family duties.

He has to do it if he wants to compete but it’s also he does it because he loves the product he’s selling, and he enjoys supplying it to his customers. He excitedly tells me when how he was able to help a customer find exactly what they wanted, or what the next special in—store event will be. He dejectedly tells me when he catches someone stealing from the shop, or when a supplier lets him down.  He knows his customers and he tries to do the best he can for them.

If people spend money locally, the proceeds flow back into the local community. The shop my husband manages employs seven people, five of which are university students working casually. People who are employed in retail order coffees from cafés in Kingston, buy new shoes from Belconnen, and get haircuts in Civic. They have kids in local schools and they play in the local sporting competitions. Giving local shops support means that they and their staff are able to spend money locally too.  Of course, not every shopping experience is positive.  But there are lots of small, local retailers who love their product and want to serve you. If the people of Canberra can get behind and support their local retailers, they’ll reap the benefits in return.

Want homegrown knowledge about where to buy local? Check out our ‘My Canberra’ series, where local women share their favourite spots to shop, eat, and more…or pop over here for our first Local Lust List!

Lauren Briggs

Lauren Briggs is Canberra writer. She’s studying a Masters of Creative Writing at the University of Canberra, and writes both short and long fiction. In her free time she enjoys buying more books than she can ever hope to read and following the Brumbies and Raiders. She’s on twitter @lozbriggs and blogs at laurenbriggswrites.wordpress.com.

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  • Michelle B

    Great article Lauren. Also, if your husband’s shop is the one I think it is, I have been a loyal customer since I moved to Canberra in 2005 (when it was in a different location and not as visible as it is now). Apart from all the cool stuff there, the customer service is fantastic and one of the main reasons I keep going back. A lot of my friends are also regulars there, we all love it. It’s been great to watch the business grow over the years and I hope that people continue to shop local so that his shop, and others, can stay in business. I’ll be using it as an excuse to keep shopping!

  • Renee

    As a small business owner I can say every year at both federal and local budget time we have a slow period, every year! But this year we have noticed a definite slump and its scary. I understand the services we provide some may say are a luxury, and the first to go from people ‘extras’ personal budget, but I have 3 full-time staff and three part-time that rely on their wage too. I make decisions to support local business in the running of my business and my personal life. Even down to the fact that I try to keep my big commercial suppliers all Australian, which isn’t easy in this market. I know I can get things cheaper but I choose to keep the money local as I know it will affect my business in the end if I don’t.

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