Saturday, May 16, 2020

Shop local-ish

The video above is an ad currently running on NZ television. It’s from an ad agency promoting the admonition that we “shop local”. I’ve heard a lot of people say they intend to do exactly that, but will they? Should they?

Many businesses did it tough during New Zealand’s lockdown, and many won’t survive all this. Even big retailers have announced closures of some of their locations, and eveb though at least some intended on doing that for other reasons, many small independent retailers don’t have the resources of the big guys. All of which means that business failures are inevitable.

Part of the problem that Kiwis have, despite their great intentions, is that we may not necessarily be aware of local small businesses that can provide whatever product or service we’re looking for. A web search won’t necessarily show them because the algorithms search engines use may very well ignore small businesses if they don’t get enough of the “right” traffic. Moreover, many small businesses don’t even maintain a website at all.

Another issue is price. With huge numbers of people on unemployment (it’s expected to be at or near double digits by June), a lot of Kiwis will be watching every cent. Small retailers usually can’t hope to match the prices of big retailers. That means that despite what Kiwis want to do (use small, independent businesses), their financial realities may prevent that.

We also have no idea what will happen to shopping habits. Will people return to their old ways, or have things really changed? Will online ordering really replace going to individual stores? It’ll be quite awhile before we’ll have enough data to make any sort of educated guess about that, but if people don’t deliberately choose small independent businesses (including for online ordering), it will probably increase the number that fail.

On the other side of all that is that fact the big businesses employ Kiwis. Chain stores run by corporations aren’t exactly small, independent, or even local, really (and may not even be New Zealand-owned), but they are employers. If we avoid the big guys altogether, that will cost jobs, too.

And, if we do turn to big, not necessarily local, strictly speaking, businesses, will we feel like we’ve “failed” in some sort of moral duty? Some who do feel that may then feel they may as well give up the effort entirely. People are weird like that.

So, what should we do? I won’t tell other people what to do, but I know that I’ll give first preference to New Zealand-owned companies, big or small. I’ll also turn to small, local NZ-owned businesses when I can, but not necessarily as a first choice—there are a lot of factors that will make that decision for me (that’s also true for whether I patronise New Zealand-owned businesses as a first choice, for that matter, because it’s not always possible). Here’s the thing about that, though: It’s exactly what I’ve always done—for many years.

Shop local? Sure, but maybe it’s more realistic to say, “shop local when you can”. That’s very easy to do, and even with something like shopping, we need to make it simple and easy for people to help. If everyone makes a point of shopping “local-ish”, it’ll still help. Isn’t that the whole point?


Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...

Yes, marketing and truth don't always get along. I suppose I'd say, "Vote Biden. You know the other guy's far worse." Or something like that.

rogerogreen said...

Except "Shop local when you can" is a weaker slogan. It'd be like "Vote Biden, if you don't mind." Less is sometimes more.