Entries in Peterborough (6)

Wednesday
Nov192014

Buying locally in a click-of-a-button, cross-border kind of world

‘Tis the season; and it really couldn’t be a more fitting season to wrap up the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce’s LoveLocalPtbo 2014 Campaign.  The Chamber has spent the year encouraging people to tell us about their adventures at local businesses in Peterborough through the Twitter hashtag #lovelocalptbo. At the upcoming Christmas PBX (Tues, Dec 2) at The Market Hall Performing Arts Centre, the 30 Chamber members who brought the campaign to life will be recognized and one lucky Chamber member will be the winner of a $1000 shopping spree at the sponsoring businesses.   

While the #lovelocalptbo campaign had a fairly lighthearted feel, the underlying message couldn’t be more serious.  As we see our Facebook and Twitter feeds fill up with photos of cross-border shopping trips and exclamations of amazing deals, it’s a stab to the heart of a local economy.  “I’m not saying you shouldn’t see the world, load your friends into your car and have a weekend jaunt,” says Stuart Harrison, President & CEO, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce.  “My last two summer vacations were spent in the Eastern US on my motorcycle. But even if I’d been driving a truck I can assure you it would not have been loaded with flat screen TV’s, diapers, and running shoes when I crossed back into Canada!”  

The reason for staying local when planning the purchases or gifts at any time of the year is simple “small
business contributes significant amounts of money to charity, sponsorships of festivals and events,” says Harrison. “In addition, the roads and bridges, and much of the recreational, artistic, and historic infrastructure, provided by Municipal Governments through taxes, would be seriously diminished without small business.” 

The Chamber isn't the only organization with this message. Many retailers, Lansdowne Place, the Downtown Business Improvement Area are creating programs to promote shopping locally this holiday season. 

According to a report released in 2013 for Small Business Week by the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), five consumer trends will have a permanent impact on Canadians’ buying habits and create growth opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). 

The report identifies five consumer behaviours—the buy-local movement, rising health awareness, frugality, mass customization of goods and the impact of the Internet—that have emerged as a result of advances in technology, changing demographics and the 2007– 08 recession. However, the research shows that entrepreneurs have not embraced all trends equally. Some SMEs have begun catering to the increased demand for healthy, well-priced local products, for instance, but e-commerce has been slower to catch on. In fact, the Canadian online retail presence remains largely underdeveloped and, as a result, e-commerce has lagged behind that of most other nations, with some of the lowest penetration levels in the developed world. 

Of all the consumer trends, the buy-local movement has been the most powerful. Close to two-thirds of Canadians say they have made an effort to buy local or Canadian-made products in the past year, and two in five consider local production an important factor in their buying decision. 

The research shows that consumers who buy local do so for economic reasons: 97% of Canadians do it to support the local economy, 96% do it to support local farmers and 93% do it to create local jobs, while 87% think it is better for the environment. 

BDC’s study also found:  

  • Half of Canadians consider the health impact of a product when making purchasing decisions and one-third are willing to pay a premium for healthy products. 
  • The Internet is much more than an online purchasing tool; it is now embedded throughout most product purchasing journeys. 
  • Seven out of 10 consumers have reduced their spending since the recession, and two-thirds consider the lowest possible cost the most influential factor in their purchasing decisions.

“Should retailers ignore the desire of Canadians to get more for their money?  Absolutely not, they need to take more responsibility for the problem of cross-border shopping and do what they can to keep customers shopping locally at home.  This should be achieved through enhanced customer service, warranty servicing and more competitive pricing,” says Scott Stuart, Kawartha TV & Stereo and Chamber member. “At the same time, Canadian consumers shouldn’t be let off the hook.  They need to know that circulating their dollar in their home community keeps themselves and their neighbours employed, and this benefits local economies.  Dollars spent in Canada will also ensure that we continue to enjoy health care, a strong social safety net and many other benefits.”  

Legislation on the price gap is anticipated this fall. In its 2014 budget, the federal government has made consumer-focused measures a priority, including the idea that consumers “should not be charged more in Canada for identical goods that sell for less in the United States, unless that price difference reflects legitimate higher costs” (Federal Budget 2014, p. 175). But what can it do to reach that goal? First, it can reduce costs for consumer goods by lowering or removing tariffs and by relaxing the supply-management restrictions on products such as cheese, chicken, eggs, milk and yogurt. Second, it can raise the maximum value of goods that Canadians can bring into the country without paying any duty.”  (CD Howe Institute Commentary 409 May 2014)

The reality is that there is real economic damage done when people consistently spend their money out of the city, across the border, or online, in a way that has zero impact locally. 

“Your (the consumer’s) buying power is a form of democracy and your buying choices will have a great impact on the community where you live,” commented Dave Dawson in an editorial for the Orillia Packet & Times Friday, November 14, 2014.  Interestingly enough the comments on his editorial ranged from complete agreement, to store owners not being open during events in the business core, to not being able to find the exact item desired, to cost of travelling out of town whether it’s the next town over or the across the border.

In 2008, the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce ran a public service campaign called the “Think Campaign”.   The tagline was “It’s your choice, just stop for a minute and think about it.” Think about whether or not there are any true savings, think about the local retailers and think about what kind of community you want to have. 

Comment on this article through the "Peterborough Chamber" group of LinkedIn.

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