Supporting local shops: How you can play your part
How to help keep your favourite stores thriving (and save money at the same time).
"Shopping local" feels very 2020, as many of us find ourselves working from home and rarely venturing outside of our immediate area. But it's not a new idea.
Campaigns to promote local shopping have existed within Australia for decades. Here's an editorial from the Mudgee Herald in 1933, urging citizens to use their local stores rather than ordering from retailers in larger cities:
"If all the residents supported to the utmost the local stores, and bought every possible article needed in their own town instead of sending to the State capitals, the improvement in the business section of the town would be astounding," it noted.
The issue has continued to bubble since. Increasing levels of car ownership after World War II made it easier for people to shop in large malls and chain stores, even if those were located several suburbs away or in the next town. Local retailers campaigned against that change, highlighting the levels of personal service and quality available just down the street.
More recently, Australian Made campaigns have also provided a fillip to small business retailers. The green-and-gold, kangaroo symbol is seen on everything from clothes to chocolates and some people actively seek it out when they're shopping. And now, with the coronavirus pandemic meaning that we're all being encouraged to stay home as much as possible, shopping local makes sense health-wise too.
Four reasons shopping local makes sense
There are four clear benefits to shopping at small local businesses:
- It keeps money in your local economy. Local small businesses are paying rents and rates in your area, which helps fund essential community amenities. They're also far more likely to employ local residents.
- There are choices and options you won't see anywhere else. Chain retail is, above all else, predictable: it sells the same items everywhere. If you're after something more vibrant – a freshly-baked scone, a locally-bottled beer, a unique shawl design – shopping local is the way to go.
- Familiar faces. Shop regularly at your local stores and you'll soon be recognised by the staff (and quite possibly by other customers too). As well as creating a sense of community connection, this can have a positive impact on your mental health and wellbeing.
- It keeps your neighbourhood vibrant. Better local amenities often mean better real estate prices. Being able to dine out (or pick up your takeaway), grab your groceries and check out unique local stores makes for a better quality of life. It's also better for the environment: travelling less (or by foot) helps reduce carbon emissions – and that goes for how far what you buy has to travel as well.
Not sure if a given product or service is available where you live? Obviously you can Google it, but another useful option is to look for Facebook groups of residents in your area. Seek out recommendations from there to help find the stuff you need.
Save at local small businesses with Shop Small
Shopping at local retailers is even more appealing when you can save extra money at the same time. That's the logic underpinning Shop Small, a campaign that American Express runs every year. It usually takes place in November, but the 2020 version was brought forward to help small businesses encourage customers to shop locally.
The Shop Small concept is very simple. Spend $10 or more in a single transaction using your Amex Card in a participating store, and you'll get $5 back as a credit from Amex. You can get up to 10 $5 off credits during the campaign, which adds up to a potential $50 in savings. A huge variety of businesses take part, from cafes to bookshops to jewellers to wineries to florists.
Note that you can't get money off in any individual store more than once. Shop Small runs until 31 August 2020. You can check out a full list of the participating businesses or search this map for Shop Small locations near you.
To take advantage of the Shop Small promotion, you'll need to register your Amex Card online before you shop. Most personal Amex Cards issued in Australia are eligible (including supplementary Cards).
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