As we enter the second holiday shopping season of the COVID-19 pandemic it is imperative that we double down on our efforts to support our local businesses as we (hopefully) near the finish line. First, it must be said that New Brunswickers have gone above and beyond to choose our homegrown businesses throughout the pandemic – our local retailers, restaurants, craft breweries, artists and many more truly appreciate the support. Now let’s keep that momentum going through the all-important holiday season for the next month or so – it could be the difference between your favourite business still being here for the next holiday season.
This isn’t about charity – local businesses bring value to their customers and their communities. They earn our business in ways that online retailers cannot and have used the past two years to become even better at providing products and services – including more online ordering options, curbside pickup and customizing experiences for clients’ needs.
The Centre for Local Prosperity took a closer look at the economic impact of local businesses in a February 2021 report, which confirmed that local has an oversized impact. They found that small businesses recirculate up to 4.6 times more revenue in the local economy than multinational businesses. Overall, local businesses provided a multiplier rate of $1.78 per $1.00 spent.
This extra value created by local businesses is important for many reasons – starting with job creation. The Centre for Local Prosperity’s study also found that every dollar spent on a locally owned business creates 2-4 times more jobs and other economic benefits than a dollar spent in a similar non-locally owned business. Those are jobs for our friends and neighbours, who will further re-circulate their paychecks in the community and pay taxes, which fund the government services we need.
Local businesses are much more likely to support other community activities through donations, sponsorships and providing in-kind services. They sponsor sports teams, provide funding for the arts and for hosting festivals and generously donate to causes of all shapes and sizes. The more the community can support local, the more they can support the community.
Ultimately, local businesses really set themselves apart with unbeatable customer service. The hands-on attention that they can provide to better understand their customer means that the product or service received is much more likely to meet our needs and expectations. And this holiday season, with concerns about supply chains and shipping issues, shopping locally for holiday gifts is the only way to be sure that they actually arrive in a timely manner.
Supporting local is always an area of focus for organizations such as chambers of commerce, but the pandemic has been a dramatic reminder of the centrally important role that small businesses play in our communities. Chambers across the province actively partnered with other stakeholders such as economic development organizations and tourism associations very early in the pandemic in an effort to mitigate some of its effects on local economies. In Fredericton, the #SupportFredLocal campaign is in its fifth phase and specifically targeted to lead up to the holidays. It’s a community effort and our small local businesses are a big part of forming community identity – if you think about other places you’ve been it’s likely one of the first things that come to mind are the restaurants, markets and shops that are unique to that place.
For all these reasons, we must make sure we get out and do our shopping in our own communities, stop for a meal or a beverage at a local restaurant or café and take in an artisan market. Winter is tough for many businesses at the best of times [these are not the best of times], particularly early in the new year and many businesses rely on a holiday rush to get through those coldest months until spring. This winter let’s not leave local businesses out in the cold.
Krista Ross is CEO of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce, a nationally accredited organization with more than 1,000 members, is an active business organization engaged in policy development and advocacy that affects the competitiveness of our members and the Canadian business environment. The Chamber’s vision is ‘Stronger Community Through Business Prosperity’.