Sustaining our local economy

December 13, 2017
Council Column

This is the last City Council News in 2017. The next City Council News is scheduled for Wednesday, January 17, 2018.

You may have seen the TV advertisements about the current and projected dramatic increase in online shopping and the implications for waste production. The ad ends with photos of recycling containers full of the cardboard and paper needed to ship consumer products around the world. The essential message is: don’t worry about this waste; it can be recycled.

Well, increased waste may be the least of our worries if online shopping continues to dramatically grow in both volume and scope. A more significant concern should be what it will do to our local economy and the jobs sustained by our retail sector.

The appeal of online shopping is self-evident: you don’t have to brave the weather, worry about parking, put up with limited selection, or endure the hassle of line ups and sorting through bins and racks of retail goods to find what you are looking for. Shopping online let’s you browse mega-selections in the comfort of your own home and, with a few clicks and a credit card, have your selection delivered straight to your door.

People’s initial concerns with the security of their personal financial information when they shop online seem to have been addressed to the satisfaction of most consumers. And, online retailers’ promise of hassle free returns and refunds takes the risk out of buying and testing most consumer items.

However, the impact of a massive shift to online shopping could be devastating for our local economy and for our community. This trend, without question, is a local job and investment killer.

When you shop locally you are supporting the paycheques of your family, friends, and neighbours – you, in effect, help your community create and sustain jobs. Local business also sponsor and support community events, youth and adult sport teams, and fundraisers. They also contribute to property taxes, helping to maintain taxes at an affordable level for everyone. If most people living in a community make the effort to always shop local first this ultimately improves the quality of the overall retail experience in that community, as stores can carry a more diverse inventory and more investment in the retail sector results in more shopping options being made available close to home.

People present all kinds of reasons for not shopping local: not enough selection, poor customer service, no parking, more expensive than the online or mega-store alternatives. But, these are merely excuses to justify putting personal comfort and ease ahead of community sustainability. In reality, not making the effort to shop local and not putting energy into working with our local retailers to get the kinds of products and services you want here becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: our local retail experience diminishes in proportion to the number of people who shop online or in other communities.

Throughout and after this summer’s wildfire event people have been asking how they can best help those most affected. So, here’s a simple and direct way to take an active role in our community’s wildfire recovery efforts: shop local this Christmas and make a commitment to become an active local shopper in 2018.

If our retail sector doesn’t have what you are looking for, let them know and see if they can bring in your product before defaulting to online or out of town shopping (or choose an alternate product the store has in stock). If you experience poor customer service, politely let the owners and managers know and enable them to work with their staff to remedy that situation. In short, become an active partner with our local retailers to improve the overall shopping experience here and, by doing so, proactively contribute to the sustainability of our local economy.

Mayor Bob Simpson

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