Keep local presents in mind 

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So there I was in Whistler's Armchair Books looking for a cookbook when a laminated sign on the cash desk about the power of buying local caught my eye.

In a strange way, it was like pushing a re-set button on my Christmas gift buying. My list is all made, but when I looked at it closely, I realized that I could actually get nearly everything right here in the resort. I know the prices might be higher but after braving Vancouver shopping last month I think my nerves won't mind the increased price tags.

It's easy to forget that Whistler, like so many smaller towns, relies on locals shopping here to keep stores operating all year round. Sure, the shops are packed at the peak times, but it's locals dining out or purchasing kitchen knick-knacks or plants at the garden centres that keep business operating year after year.

This past week saw Buy Local Week, organized by LOCO B.C., wrap up for another year. LOCO, 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, took aim this year at the high prices many business tenants have to pay, as well as the continued impact of online shopping.

The organization is launching a research project into lease prices across the province in the hope of discovering what is happening.

On the online front it is almost an, "if you can't beat them join them," scenario with many in business working to have an online presence, no matter how small, to capture shoppers.

Online shopping is a growing trend in Canada. Sales are expected to grow to $40 billion by 2019. B.C. retailers cite "competition from Internet retailers" as one of two top challenges they face (tied for top issue at 64 per cent along with "big competitors receive better pricing & terms").

And two out of every three dollars spent online in Canada goes to a U.S. retailer.

The benefits of shopping locally are tangible.

Harvard University for example, has done studies over the years that have found great benefits from shopping local — and not just for goods, but also for services such as banking.

For small business, the research also shows that 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. LOCO B.C. has found that 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 and local suppliers re-circulate 33 per cent compared to 19 per cent for chains.

"For every $100 spent with a BC local business, $46 is re-circulated back into our B.C. economy," sates the LOCO B.C. website. "This is because locally owned businesses circulate more dollars in the community compared to multinational organizations."

Local business owners live and provide jobs in our community and they support local sports teams and charities and, of course, the owners and workers also shop and use the services of their hometowns. So spending with a local business has ripple effects that contribute to the growth and health of the communities all across our province.

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 found in 2014 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.

According to the 2015 Small Business Profile, B.C. has the most small businesses per capita in Canada, at 83 per 1,000 people.

About 388,500 small businesses were operating in the province in 2015, 79 per cent of which had fewer than five employees.

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.

Part of their success lies in the work they do to hire locally, retain staff 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.

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 — something supported by the Resort Municipality of Whistler's (RMOW) "Sustainable Purchasing Guide" on local procurement.

"Sustainable purchasing is important for everybody — through better purchasing choices, the RMOW can continue to reduce its negative impacts on environmental and social systems... done well it can help to support local economic development, and promote healthier communities," states the 2006 guide.

As the resort heads into a new season, it's important to remember to support each other all year long.

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