It is no secret that South Africa’s economy is taking strain. The good news is that we can all contribute to rebuilding it while also improving our own financial health. The secret lies in buying local.
September is the month when South Africans celebrate their heritage. Friday, 24 September, is Heritage Day, but there’s nothing stopping us from dedicating the whole month to celebrating who we are and where we come from.
Part of this celebration can and should involve local businesses and how they contribute to the social and financial wellness of our communities.
Many people believe that quality comes from somewhere else, such as shoes and bags from Italy, or cool clothes from overseas. In addition to the quality myth, we have also been conditioned to think that imported goods are cheaper and that local producers charge more because they are not competitive. People also like to shop at the megastores where things cost less than at their local general dealer or spaza shop, and where there are often great specials. And price matters when you have a personal budget to balance, right?
Of course, price is important, but there is a bigger, longer term picture to consider when it comes to supporting local producers and traders. And it is not true that imported goods are always cheaper.
Local brings variety
Importers and megastores need volume to keep prices down. Volume means a lot of the same thing – and less variety. A local shop that gets stock from local farmers, producers and craftspeople is likely to stock a wonderful variety of products. Depending on the kind of place it is, it might even be possible for you to order specific products, which can be great when you do your financial planning. Interesting shops that stock unusual items, or a talented craftsperson can also draw people from elsewhere to spend money in your community.
Local creates jobs and opportunities
The farmers, producers and craftspeople that supply local shops all earn a living they might not have been able to do otherwise. It also possible that, as their small businesses grow, they can start employing other people in the area. In this way, today’s small business can be tomorrow’s big business, employing hundreds of local people. If we don’t make a point of buying local, local businesses suffer and even close down, while the international mega companies make even more money and create jobs in other parts of the world.
Local businesses invest locally
A local business has a stake in the local area. This is the reason why local businesses often support the nearby schools and sports clubs or, as we are seeing in small towns like Coligny and Senekal, they even get together to clean up their towns and help municipalities with service delivery. On a smaller scale, a local butcher, baker, tailor or plumber whose business is growing can take in young people and teach them the trade. This is the kind of investment that changes lives and grows economies.
Local is environmentally friendly
The impacts of climate change are increasingly clear to see, and we all have to do what we can to help protect our planet. An easy way to do this, is to shop locally. You don’t have to travel far, which cuts down on air pollution and transport costs, and if you buy from a local vegetable shop, for instance, the produce you buy isn’t transported over great distances either. Goods that don’t travel as far need less packaging, which means less plastic.
Local supports the people you know
Not many of us know the big boss of our local big-name supermarket, but chances are that you know the local mechanic or the person who owns the veggie shop around the corner, and you certainly know the neighbour whose cakes you buy or the lady at work that sells homemade soaps. People are social beings, we like to be connected to other people, and it feels good to know who you are giving your money to.
Local is convenient
When you need a loaf of bread or airtime or sugar, it is great to have a small shop down the road to help you out. Yes, they might charge a bit more, but if you add up your time and transport costs to get to a shopping mall, the small shop is a bargain. Shopping where you cannot be tempted to buy things you don’t need, can even help you to get out of debt. And as more and more people support the local shop, prices will come down as volumes increase.
Let’s challenge ourselves this Heritage Month to really buy local. Let’s find those people whose small businesses can make a big difference to financial wellness in our communities and support them.Go back