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Plan to buy local this holiday season

With December coming our way most of us are heading into the "making-the-list" phase of Christmas shopping. This happily coincides with the Buy Local campaign, which runs through Dec. 6 this year.
Local businesses Black's Pub and Restaraunt and Sushi Village celebrate their 30th anniversary this week. photo by mike crane / Tourism Whistler

With December coming our way most of us are heading into the "making-the-list" phase of Christmas shopping.

This happily coincides with the Buy Local campaign, which runs through Dec. 6 this year. It is hardly rocket science to understand the benefits of choosing to spend your dollars with local businesses rather than, say, those in the big city to the south. By spending here we help employ people and keep the retail and other business sectors vibrant.

According to LOCO BC — a local business alliance working to create a diverse, vibrant local economy by strengthening small and mid-sized businesses, and which organizes Buy Local week — B.C. local businesses create more than double the economic impact of their chain competitors. They re-circulate 2.6 times more revenue in the local economy as chains.

Here are some facts to consider:

• Local retailers re-circulate 45 per cent compared to 17 per cent for chains;

• Local restaurants re-circulate 65 per cent compared to 30 per cent for chains;

• Local suppliers (ie. office supplies) re-circulate 33 per cent compared to 19 per cent for chains.

For every $100 spent with a B.C. local business, $46 is re-circulated back into our B.C. economy (vs. $18 for multi-nationals).

We know that local business owners live and provide jobs in our community, they provide more support for local events, sports teams and charities, and they are more likely to buy local services and stock local products than chain stores. 

In 2014, the most recent year available from Statistics Canada, B.C.'s small business sector accounted for 33 per cent of the provincial GDP, well above the Canadian average of 30 per cent.

As social media becomes part of the fabric of our society, so too is "social" shopping with Internet purchasing growing year over year.

And that is a growing threat to locally owned business.

A new survey reveals that 77 per cent of Canadians believe it is more convenient to shop for gifts online than in stores, so much so that Canadians plan to do almost half of their holiday shopping online this year.

Findings from the fourth annual FedEx Express Canada Online Shopping Intentions Survey also show that more than two-thirds (69 per cent) of Canadians believe buying online is the fastest and most efficient way to shop for gifts.

Small businesses employ more than one million people in B.C. and provide about 55 per cent of all private-sector jobs in the province — the second-highest rate in Canada, according to the provincial government.

About 382,200 small businesses were operating in the province in 2012, 81 per cent of which had fewer than five employees.

Canadian consumers spend about $1,500 on average on food, alcohol, gifts and travel during the holiday season. When people shift just one per cent — a $15 purchase — of that spending to local business, it multiplies local wealth and supports more jobs and stronger communities.

LOCO has found that the one-per-cent increase in B.C. consumer spending creates 3,100 jobs and $94 million in annual wages to B.C. workers.

Of course there are many small businesses in Whistler working hard to keep the resort economically sustainable. I only have to walk out of the door to see them — and it's incredible to think some are celebrating decades in business. Among them are Slopeside Supply (20-plus years), Prior (25 - plus years) and the Whistler Grocery Store (34 - years). Black's Pub and Sushi Village are celebrating their 30th anniversary this week!

Part of their success lies in the work they do to hire locally and shop locally themselves where they can. It is this circular notion of business that lies at the very root of why buying local works.

This is also apparent in grocery stores and eateries throughout the resort and beyond as residents and visitors alike seek out "local" produce.

Added to this focus on local shopping this year is a proliferation on the Internet of locals selling gently used or even new items on various buy and sell sites. What an awesome way to share community resources. How many dollhouses does one community need to buy?

Buy Local Week is strong reminder of the value of community.

Sometimes buying local can be more costly, but the spinoff effects can make it worthwhile.

As we head into one of the busiest shopping times of the year it's worth remembering that we are all in this together — so shop local.