The holiday season is well upon us, and this weekend marks “Super Saturday”—the busiest shopping day of the year and the last Saturday (December 19) before Christmas.
If you’re like me and leave gift shopping to the last minute, the thought of a crowded mall on the weekend before Christmas is enough to make your skin crawl. Thankfully, I don’t even have to leave East Van, let alone venture into a mall (okay, maybe Kingsgate Mall), and my last-minute shopping is way more impactful because I buy local.
The early shopping I did manage this year was thanks to a variety of art and craft markets; the East Side Culture Crawl, pop-up events at Britannia and Strathcona Community Centres, a craft market/pub at the Lido on Broadway, and the annual Western Front fundraiser and craft fair TOQUE.
Even if you missed the fairs, here in the East End, we have an abundance of shopping high streets with bricks-and-mortar opportunities to put shop local into practice. Between Gastown, Chinatown, the Drive, and Mount Pleasant, you’re sure to find something for somebody at one of many locally owned independent businesses. Then there are the emerging micro-shopping districts along Fraser Street, Kingsway, and the 600-800 blocks of East Hastings anchored by the Heatley Block. With two brothers in town, I’ll no doubt be doing a lot of my shopping in our local “Yeast Van” brewery district.
Buying local is about more than just convenience and mall-o-phobia though. Small business in B.C. accounts for 33 percent of the province’s GDP, and we lead the nation in small businesses per capita. Province-wide, small businesses employ over one million British Columbians—more than half of all private-sector jobs.
Best of all, buying local recirculates your money into the regional economy and helps to build strong communities. According to LOCO BC, every $100 you spend at a local business returns $46 to the local economy; more than two-and-a-half times the positive community impact as buying from a chain store.
This holiday season, the average Canadian consumer will spend about $1,500 on food, alcohol, gifts, and travel—shifting even one percent of that purchasing power to local independent businesses multiplies community wealth and jobs. Big picture province-wide: a one percent increase in annual B.C. consumer spending would create 3,100 jobs and $94 million in annual wages.
That community economic development extends beyond the cash register as it often supports other local suppliers and businesses like legal, financial, and marketing services. (Full disclosure: I’m a local small business-owner, and for the better part of 30 years my bread and butter has been providing design and marketing services to local arts groups, non-profits, and businesses including some of East Van’s best-loved brands.)
Local businesses are often incubators for innovation, as Vancouver’s many successful tech, retail, and food startups will attest. From catering and beer production to goods manufacturing to farmers’ markets, not only does your local purchase strengthen community through good jobs, support for local charities, and contributing to our tax base, but buying local also means reduced transportation costs, reducing our carbon footprint and helping Vancouver lead the way as the Greenest City.
So this Christmas, I’ll be supporting my neighbours by buying local gifts and hopefully enjoying a little down time with a good B.C. book, and maybe an East Van distilled spirit with my locally roasted coffee.
Happy and safe holidays to all.
Originally published in the Georgia Straight