Do you make an effort to Keep it Local?

When I was growing up in a small village in England I remember my Dad being shunned and talked about by the locals (for about a week until something more scandalous happened). Why? For buying a Volvo – a Swedish car! The villagers were all for Buying British and better still, Buying Local. And these campaigns are still being fought today, 30 years on, worldwide, not just in my tiny village.

When a car plant closes and the inevitable job losses are announced, people react with anger, condemning the government for not supporting Australian businesses.  But do you?  Support or condemn?  Do you make a conscious decision to buy Australian made goods or go one step further and seek out local producers – be it food, services, clothes?  Do you know where your t-shirts are made or how the people who made them were treated?

The conundrum
Recent research by Shop Small (commissioned by AmEx) showed that NINE out of 10 shoppers say they would miss their neighbourhood small businesses if they closed.  Yet only 20 per cent shop at them most days.

The majority of people when asked, say they do care about factory workers’ conditions in China, Cambodia, Bangladesh.  They do care how safely and ethically their fruit and veg are grown.  But do they then seek out Australian made or locally grown products?

The many varied benefits to keeping it local

Local employment
When more people spend their money in their local hardware store, convenience store, café or country pub – those businesses can provide more local people with jobs.  This gives youngsters prospects too, locally.  When you see a town where all the 18 year olds have left to seek lives/employment elsewhere, you see the heart go out of a community.

Sense of community
“No man is an island” – we all need to belong.  And when you know your local shop keeper, plumber, dry cleaner, odd job man, even writer(!) you increase your connection to where you live.  This has far reaching consequences; a sense of community and belonging is a major contributory factor in people’s mental health and wellbeing.

Less far to go
Small businesses closing down not only leave their neighbourhood looking shabby, or increase the risk of a loss of a sense of community – it means folk have to travel further to get what they need, which is both inconvenient and costly.  If you can pop to your local gift shop or haberdashery, home-wares store or florist for that last minute gift, you’re ahead, job done, box ticked…locally.

The down side
It’s cheaper elsewhere – or is it?
55 per cent of people said they could save money by shopping elsewhere.  Sure, that might be their initial perception, but is it strictly true?  If you drive an extra 30 kms to buy something cheaper you need to calculate your time/petrol/wear and tear on your car and add this into the actual cost of the ‘cheaper’ item.  And if you buy online, can you return it for free or will this be at your expense?

First world problems
When asked why they might snub their local businesses, 67 per cent of those asked, said they could not buy everything they needed locally.  While this might be true, if you allow local businesses to close by not shopping at them, you will end up having to travel 30 kms every time you need to get anything, not just those items.  And imagine the impact on people who don’t own a car or drive?  Their entire day will be taken up with catching public transport to a shopping centre 30 kms away.

Is age a factor?
81 per cent of Baby Boomers surveyed said their local shops were “very important” compared with 75 per cent of Generation X and 67 per cent of Generation Ys.   I may be generalising for a second here, but it seems, that as we each move up the food change, our values change and we start to appreciate more where our purchases come from, how people were treated who made them, what the true cost is of buying from a sweatshop and what value we put on our local communities.

So, how often do you shop locally?
85 per cent of people questioned support their local shopping strips at least once a week.  Around a third say they shop at them two to three times a week and 19 per cent most days.  Which is you?

Look around you at your local community, at the main street, at the range of shops, food outlets and amazing services on offer.  Now picture that streetscape without those shops, imagine them disappearing from your view, one by one.  And bear this in mind next time you decide to hop in the car to shop 30 kms away, or jump online.

It’s about making conscious purchasing decisions and understanding their implications, in both the short and long term.


Helen toiled away in advertising and event management in London and Melbourne until she saw the light in 2008, when she sold up in the city and moved to the hills of the Yarra Valley and recreated herself.
She thought she’d ‘get there and see what was needed’.  And so started her freelance career – writing all sorts for small businesses and travel articles for magazines.  It’s taken her all over the world and she still can’t really believe she gets paid to travel!
She loves that she gets to work with a diverse set of clients, and currently has CFA, a farrier, tour company, haberdashery and artist as clients.
She is English (especially when the cricket’s on) but has been here with a blue passport since 2003.