Often in the media and on social media we hear the words “Buy local, buy Australian”. Most of us agree with this ideal and would like to buy Australian to support our own farmers and manufacturers. But it’s not that simple, is it?
What does “buying local” really mean? How does it really impact our local economy and community?
In an age when we are seemingly surrounded by corporate owned retail chains, the words “buy local” are often scoffed at. How can we possibly buy Australian or buy local when we don’t really know who owns what businesses any more?
But perhaps that’s missing the point entirely — perhaps buying local is simple and does directly impact our community more than we think.
Buying local means supporting the local café even if it’s a franchise of a large corporate brand, because the person who owns that local franchise shop is also a local and employs local university students and tradespeople as their work force.
That same business would like to make a better profit because they genuinely would like to be able to afford to employ more local staff and they’d like give to a local charity, and support the local primary school fair this year.
We need to see our community and its businesses differently. We are interdependent — we need to see the people who own, run and work in the businesses, not just the brand or lack of brand on the front door.

## Why does buying local build your community? Local work forces buy local — in my lunch break I’ll often run down the street and do a quick bit of grocery shopping, or buy a present or coffee and lunch from the shops around me. Schools and clubs need sponsors for projects like shade sails and air-conditioning, and prizes for raffles to buy equipment. If your local school population buys from the local businesses which sponsor school projects, then there’s a direct demonstration of return on investment to the sponsoring business. So they are more likely to continue to support your school each year. Charities which rely on the donations of small businesses in their communities need to be able to show their sponsors that it’s worthwhile supporting them and that the business will get exposure and more people will buy from them if they support the charity. Young people and university students need after-school jobs to teach them the value of working for a living while studying. Mums trying to make ends meet need access to casual or part-time work close to home so they can be there for the kids too. More local small businesses mean more opportunities for these people, and better infrastructure and services for you. Small local businesses need to be able to turn a profit so they can grow and do more in their communities.

Is it more expensive to shop local than over the web?

In the short term it may be a bit more expensive, but this is a very limited and short-term perspective about the true cost.
If you take a wider view, what does it actually cost you and your community? Are you really saving money or are you paying your savings somewhere else? There are consequences to every decision you make.
If I choose, out of convenience and to save some time, to buy all of my groceries from the local Woolworths or Coles down the street I’m investing in the lives of local kids and mums who work there and I save some money. There’s nothing wrong with that.
But if I buy meat from the local butcher and vegetables from the grocer in that same complex and then the rest of my consumables from the supermarket it’ll take a little longer, cost me a little bit more cash upfront but I’m investing in building the local businesses in my community and providing a future for my children who will one day be looking for a job after school at one of those stores.
Plus, when I do I’ve just made it possible for three shops to prosper who will support the local primary school, sports club or charity with a donation of a meat tray or fruit platter at their next fundraiser because that business feels supported by their local community. Which also means the fees I pay don’t go up as high each year for my kids’ soccer rego, or their school equipment.
Next time you’re out shopping or on the hunt for a present, consider shopping locally first. Tell the shop owner why you’re shopping there, especially if you’ve noticed that they have supported a local community/school so they know that it was worth their while to invest some of their profit in their local community too. ☐