“Shop Local” “Live Local”, and #Local, have all become catch-phrases of the 21st century. But what does it really mean to shop local and live local? I never really understood the true value of this until opening my own small business. Before that, I always appreciated small business owners for their guts in pursuing what they love for a career, but beyond that, didn’t understand how deep my choices in shopping with them would affect our whole community. Now I get it – and let me tell you, it’s an honor to be able to support our local community & economy, and to be a part of those locally owned & operated Small-Medium Business who contribute to over 40% of Canada’s GDP, and over 70% of those employed in the private sector.
If you can’t tell already, this post is going to be a little different from my usual yoga-talks, but don’t be mistaken – there’s still a thread of yoga woven through this whole piece. And you might be able to guess what it is, as it’s even stated in our moto (“Yoga for Everyone, and for a Better Community”).
When you go out to run your errands, or start making your holiday shopping lists – do you stop and take the time to think of what stores and service providers will have a a more positive impact on your community? For most of us, the answer is No. And it’s not all your fault. We’ve grown up in a convenience-based economy, where the faster, cheaper, and more effortlessly you can get things done, the better. And for many of us with busy lives and more than we can handle on our daily to-do lists, the appeal of time savings you might get from a one-stop-shop (or even more so, an online shop) is apparent. But what we might be gaining in time-savings and efficiency, we’re actually giving up in many other aspects of our lives & more importantly our futures.
The benefits of shopping & supporting local are Plentiful, and Multi-fold! Below I’m going to give you my top 10 reasons to, and benefits of shopping local. And because I know this can seem like a challenge and totally new approach to sprending for many of us, I’ll also share my 5-step guide to making shopping local a little easier in your life.
Firstly, a Quick Fact: 99.7% of all Canadian owned businesses are Small-Medium sized firms. This means that Local business is most often also small business. So I’ll use these terms interchangeably below.
1. Greater Community Impact. For every dollar you spend at a local business, almost 70% goes back into the local economy! This is compared to only about 40% when you buy something from a non-locally owned business. Through paying local employees, purchasing local supplies & services, and reinvesting in the local community, your dollars spent with a locally owned business have a much greater ripple effect back on your community & the local economy.
2. Increased Value of your Dollar. When you shop local, your dollars really matter, and have value to those small business owners. Large enterprises work with large budgets, which means that your $10-$100 spent with them, or not spent with them, will barely go noticed (until we all start not spending with them). But when you shop locally, that $10-$100 is a bigger percentage of that small business’s budget, and will make a bigger difference to them, their employees, their suppliers, and their community.
3. More support for those in need. Small businesses contribute more to local charities and not-for-profits, than large enterprises do. So again, your dollars spent with a local business help to support more than just that business, but have a greater ripple effect back into the community, to those who need it most.
4. Greater Job Satisfaction. People who work for a local, small business, reported having higher job satisfaction, than those who work for a large enterprise or non-local business. Reports suggest that this greater job satisfaction is linked to a greater sense of community & connection with other employees, a greater sense of being valued (that their contributions matter), and a better work-life balance.
5. More New Jobs. The majority of new jobs are created by small business. From 2005-2015, 87% of all new jobs in Canada were created by small businesses. So when the economy & unemployment rate is looking drab, it’s not the large & non-local businesses that are going help pull it back around, it’s the small guys – which can only happen, if you support local and give them your patronage.
6. Less Environmental Burden. When you’re supporting local businesses, you’re staying closer to your community, and not having to drive as far, and burn as much fossil fuels (not to mention not having to contend with the cross-city traffic). That applies to shopping from your couch online as well (which could actually be worse for the environment), as each of those products being shipped to your door, also have to take a long trip to get to you, and have a greater environmental burden.
7. Personalized / Unique Products & Services, and More Choices. Your local businesses are better able to respond to your interests and needs than is a big non-local company. They’re more ‘on the pulse’ of what’s going on around them and what it is that you want – so they can provide you more of a personalized, or unique experience / product. And when we have more small businesses to choose from, it creates competition and diversity in offerings. Quality and lower prices over the long-run are ensured by having many competing businesses, working to gain your vote (your dollars spent).
8. Better Customer Service. When you’re shopping with a local small business, there’s a good chance you’re going to talk to someone who lives in the community, who can relate to you, and who cares more about the business they work for (as proven with the job satisfaction). They’re more likely to provide you better service, and to truly care about your enjoyment & support for their business. You’ll have more & better human connections, and less frustration or confusion (think: when was the last time you had an employee ask you in the isles of Costco if you needed a hand?).
9. Greater Satisfaction in where you live, and increased property values. People’s satisfaction in their communities isn’t just about the people who live there, or the house they live in. It also reflects the ease, walkability, and being able to enjoy other unique experiences in their community. Local businesses contribute greatly to the unique character of a community, and with a healthy local business scene in your community, your satisfaction in living there is likely to increase, and over time, that leads to an increase in your home & property worth.
10. Local Owners Care more & Give Back. Local business owners often live in the communities they work in, and are more invested in that community. So they’re more likely to care about the welfare of the community, stick around for the long-run, and be invested in a better future for the community over-all.
So many wonderful benefits to shopping local – but what does that have to do with Yoga? I promise – it’s in there! If you’ve read some of my past blog posts, you may recall that Yoga actually translates to “Unite” or Bring together. When we’re mindful about spending our money with small / local businesses, we’re thinking beyond ourselves, and we’re working on creating a better community for all (see there’s our moto again). One of the deeper and more subtle aspects of yoga, is the ability to extend beyond yourself, to support and connect with the community around you, and even to work towards building a better future for those who come after your generation. Shopping local can do that, and that’s Yoga!
So now that you’re empowered with the knowledge of why shopping local is so beneficial and important, you might be ready to commit to being more mindful about it in your own life. But it might seem like a big task to take on, and to figure out HOW to start shopping & supporting more local businesses? Here’s my sure-fired, mapped out, 5-step plan to get you shopping locally AND Enjoying it!
1. Make a list. This first list is all the items that you regularly buy – maybe it’s groceries, clothing, kids stuff, sports equipment, office supplies, or even those daily coffees. By getting a sense of what your routine purchases are, you’re better prepared to shift from convenience and habitual actions to mindful and meaningful ones. From there, you can work on finding local business to do your daily / weekly shops and errands with.
2. Set a tangible goal. Like all good resolutions – you’ll have more success if you set a tangible goal associated with this shift you might be trying to make. Maybe you want to start by buying all of your groceries from local businesses (and local farmers), or maybe you want to spend 60% of your regular expenses with small business. The best goals are ones that are achievable. So start small, and work up from there. If you’re a regular Walmart & Costco shopper, it might take some time for you to adjust your routine, so start with a few things, rather than everything.
3. Do your research & make a second list. Yes, this can take a bit of time – but it can mostly be done from home. Most businesses, even the small ones, have a website now with an “About” page, that will tell you about their origins (or ownership) and values. Look for companies that are Canadian owned, based in Calgary, and a BONUS if their values are also to support local suppliers! If you spend even one hour researching a few local businesses that you can buy the majority of your regular purchases from, then you can make a list of those businesses (even a mental list), to keep them in mind for your next shopping trip. With that list of small local businesses in mind, you’re more likely to stick to your intention, and shop there when you need to get those items.
4. Map it out. Once you’ve found and decided on some local businesses that you can buy those routine purchases with, then it’s a really good next step to figure out WHERE they are, WHEN they’re open, and HOW long it might take you to get there. That way, when you’re planning your next “errands” day, you’ll avoid feeling frustrated when you can’t find them or show up when they’re closed, and won’t have to resort to going back to the big non-local stores.
5. Enjoy it! Remember all the awesome benefits & reasons why you’re shopping local – and that your dollars spent there, are having a bigger impact on the community around you, than if you were to spend them with a big-box store. When you visit your small businesses, look at all the people working there that you’re supporting, and think of the community outside of them, that they’re likely to support, and the ripple effect that your decision and presence is having. It’s sure to bring a smile to your face, and make you enjoy your shopping experience even more. And maybe you’ll run into an acquaintance, or make a new friend, or even just have a conversation with someone who truly cares about yours and your community’s well-being.
I hope this helps give you the support you need to spend your money mindfully with small business and local suppliers, especially as we prepare for the holiday season. And as a little extra support, I’ve got a list of a few of my favorite local businesses below, that I’m always happy to support & shop at. Feel free to say hi & let them know Ashley sent you ;)
- Bownesian Grocer (one of the very few independent grocery stores left!)
- Light Cellar (for the unique and highest quality food ingredients you might want)
- Community Foods
- Sunnyside Grocery store
- Calgary Farmers Market (not just food – there’s all sorts of great things here, and in a few years time – they’ll be setting up shop close, by in our community!)
Quick bites & good Coffee:
- Cadence (just down the street from us)
- Dairy-lane & Blue-star Diner (sit-down & take-out dinning)
- Dandylion Café (NEW – and also 100% WASTE FREE!)
- Lazy Loaf & Kettle
Apparel, home things, and nice-to-haves:
- Peacock Boutique (women’s second hand clothes)
- Paper Roots (cards, home décor, fun gift ideas, jewelry, and more)
- Plant (you guessed it – plants, plant pots, and a few home accessories)
- Market Collective (this is not a store, but a fun semi-regular pop-up event that’s filled with lots of local makers for all types of products)
And remember – local businesses aren’t just the stores you see around – there’s lots who provide a unique & quality product or service from their home or office. Taking the time to search them out, is always worth-while!