Shop downtown and everyone wins
With the Christmas shopping season in high gear, local consumers have a tough decision to make about where to spend their hard-earned dollars. Do they keep their money in the community supporting friends and neighbours whose businesses populate the main streets of Lindsay, Fenelon Falls, Bobcaygeon, Norland and Coboconk, or do they order their presents from the internet where there is little residual benefit to the local community?
A purely unscientific survey of recycling boxes in our neighbourhood last week indicates that local downtowns may be in for a tough holiday season, as empty Amazon boxes stared back at us from more than half the blue boxes on our daily dog walk. Some boxes were positively overflowing with evidence that online retailers are going to have a very Merry Christmas.
In researching a recent story about the future of the local downtown, I had the opportunity to talk to some really smart people locally and from across the province who are passionate about shopping local.
One of those interviews in particular stood out. Kay Matthews is the executive director of the Ontario Business Improvement Association, the umbrella organization that represents hundreds of BIAs across the province. She absolutely believes that healthy downtowns are the key to a healthy community.
“When you spend money in your local downtown, the money goes back into the community,” Matthews said. “Main Street is not corporately owned. Money spent locally is funneled back into the community by those small business people.”
Matthews said that often local downtowns, when all their jobs are combined, are one of the largest economic drivers in many communities across Ontario.
“So many people get their first job at a local downtown business,” Matthews said. “Downtowns are a place for entrepreneurship and innovation. Even better, you don’t have to wait for the package to be delivered. When you shop at a corporate retailer over 60 per cent of the money generated by the purchase leaves the community for corporate head office.”
Matthews argues that communities need a place to gather, and that local downtowns act as the spine for the community, a place where tourists want to go because it is unique and offers shopping experiences consumers can’t get anywhere else.
She said that downtowns are a necessary community hub in a time of increasing social isolation. The importance of the local coffee shop or restaurant as a place to meet and share the news of the day is critical.
Shop downtown this Christmas, and everyone wins.