Buying Local Beyond Black Friday

Buy local campaign, Naomi Yamamoto | BCBusiness
Naomi Yamamoto (left), minister of state for tourism and small businesses and Amy Robinson (right), founder and executive director of LOCO.

With the help of a local non-profit, B.C. businesses are urging consumers to shop ‘smart’ rather than ‘cheap’

Fresh out of the retail vortex of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, B.C.’s buy-local movement is pushing for shoppers to start living the LOCO vida.

The non-profit “Live Local, Buy Local” business group LOCO BC launched its second annual province-wide Buy Local Week—as proclaimed by the City of Vancouver and the Province of British Columbia—which runs through December 8. The event, kicked off at Nuba Restaurant in downtown Vancouver and touring a few of the 200 local businesses involved (among around a thousand provincially), included Naomi Yamamoto, minister of state for tourism and small business and former chair of the BC Chamber of Commerce.

Buy-local Fast Facts

• For every $100 worth of spending, $46 is re-­circulated in the local economy, compared to $18 for chains
• A 1 per cent shift in consumer spending to local businesses would create 3,100 jobs and $94 million in wages to B.C. workers
• Local businesses in Canada have less than half the total market share on average. This has been dropping slightly each year since 2008
• Market share by local business has dropped approximately 15 per cent in the last 11 years in both B.C. and Canada
• B.C. local retailers have the third-lowest market share in the country. Local businesses captured just 34.7 per cent of the market in 2010, in front of only Alberta and Manitoba (tied at 33.1 per cent) and Nova Scotia (30.8 per cent). The Canadian average is 41.8 per cent
*Source: LOCO BC

Citing statistics that each person spends around $1,400 a year on such festive indulgences as alcohol, food, travel and gifts, Amy Robinson, LOCO’s founder and executive director, is striving to ensure “some of that money is going to local businesses” as the holiday shopping kicks off in earnest. She adds that shopping locally means those dollars re-circulate some 2.6 times within the community, according to a local study, Civic Economics’ Independent BC: Small Business and the British Columbia Economy. It also equates to a one per cent rise in consumer spending to the creation of 3,100 jobs and $94 million in yearly wages in B.C.

“A lot of the money is leaking out of our communities, going across the border to big-box or online retailers,” Robinson says. “Just like the local food movement, we want to educate people on why it’s important to keep the money in the community. It’s about a celebration of the amazing things that local businesses are doing and discovering your friends and neighbours.”

While she says retail partners—which include Olla Urban Flower Project, Cocoa Nymph, fashion designer Nicole Bridger, East Van Roasters and The Soap Dispensary—decide for themselves whether to compete for Black Friday dollars by offering discounts, for example, Robinson says the campaign is about thinking about the broader picture.

From sales and marketing within their own organizations as well as transportation, accounting, legal and distribution, “this is about understanding how local businesses support other jobs, too,” she comments, adding, “I think part of the whole issue in our culture right now is a culture of cheap and spending $50 on gas to get $20 off something.” (A point Shelley Bolton, chocolate maker at East Van Roasters, echoes: “This is about people shopping smarter and not just cheaper.”)

Yamamoto also points out the B.C. government’s drive to purchase 20 per cent from local businesses for procurement that totals around $12 billion annually.

“What we are trying to do is make sure that small businesses are aware of the possibility that they can sell their products or services to government, that’s the first thing, and secondly that once they are aware of it that we don’t put any barriers in place,” she says, adding that request for proposals that could be 60-70 pages long in the past were being reduced to two.

Overall in the province, she believes small businesses make communities strong. “They build that unique character,” she adds.