Buying Local

There was an article in last week’s Calgary Herald (http://www.calgaryherald.com/travel/Chain+stores/5759938/story.html) about a local tea shop in the town of Banff that is worried about having to shut down because of a big chain making rumblings to open up around the corner. It got me thinking about our own business, and that of the future of retail.

Someone once said that buying local is just good business. But have we in fact become a nation of people wanting to find the least expensive item possible no matter where it comes from?

As a local small business owner, I felt compassion and empathy for Ms. Gillies Smith, the owner of the Banff store. There are so many challenges as it is to run a business, it becomes even more challenging when one feels like no one really cares whether you’re there or not, and the bottom dollar rules. It made me ask myself what kind of a nation we are becoming, if to save a few cents or dollars, we go to the bigger store instead of the neighbour next door who has chosen to remain small?

Maybe part of the answer is in that last line. Some of us, for various reasons, have made the choice to remain small, to not become a chain of stores. Perhaps we just need to leave the decision making up to the consumer, which means we may shut down because we can’t compete with the big box stores that are able to provide lower prices since they’re buying in volume. Or maybe we need to become more thoughtful about where we spend our money, and the long term ramifications of our purchase choices.

There will come a time, if you believe the theories of economist and author Jeff Rubin (Why Your World is About To Get A Whole Lot Smaller), that the price of oil is going to get so high that those big box stores are not going to be able to afford to ship in all the super low priced goods that many people are currently asking for. And then what will happen? People will turn to the local suppliers, who, unfortunately, may no longer be there.

What are your thoughts about the Banff store’s situation? Do you buy local or do you buy wherever you can get the least expensive product?

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