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Shop Local This Christmas

How buying local is an investment in yourself and your community

From cheaper books to the latest gadgets the internet has made it easy to get a quick price comparison but in recent years, a new movement towards selecting local produce and services has emerged, and now the focus is on the value of buying local, supporting independents and the positive impact these actions have on our communities and in turn our own lives.

Buying local products and services takes consumers away from large, impersonal retailers and introduces them to the people doing business in their very own cities. These are the farmers, bakers, shop keepers, seamstresses and many other providers who grow or create products locally and sell them on a small scale. Even independent restaurants, cafes, law firms and estate agents like Weekes who are not remotely administered by a Head Office form part of this group.

When you or I support our local business owners, we enjoy benefits we can’t possibly get from shopping at national chains. Here are some top reasons to support your local entrepreneurs:

You can actually improve your family’s health

It makes sense really that buying local foods has numerous health benefits to your family and is better for the environment. When you buy from farmers in the South West, you have direct access to organic fruit and vegetables, as well as grass-fed meats, fresh eggs, and dairy from cows that feast on local green grass each day.

Buying out-of-season produce, like strawberries in December, lowers your eco-credentials too. As does eating turkey and carrots that have been flown halfway round the world or wrapped in layers of plastic. When you shop locally a decent percentage of the produce has had a short field-to-fork journey and often has less packaging, which is better for the environment.

Make a difference to the local economy

The Guardian recently reported that research on spending by local authorities shows that for every £1 spent with a small or medium-sized business 63p stayed in the local economy, compared to 40p with a larger business.

Local business owners often have incentive to support other local businesses, patronizing local establishments for both business and personal reasons. Chain businesses, on the other hand, tend to get their supplies from big corporations, as well as having store managers and employees that aren’t always personally invested in buying locally.

Stronger communities

When you personally get to know the people behind the business you’re buying from, you enjoy a connection you would not otherwise have. Along with the rest of the community, you celebrate when a favourite local business succeeds and you mourn when it’s forced to shut its doors. This personal investment isn’t quite as present when a chain business closes, aside from feeling disappointment that you have fewer businesses within convenient driving distance.

On top of that bookshops, cafes and craft shops often drum up custom by hosting events, from book groups to knitting clubs and children's events. If the businesses are not supported, the local groups tend to disappear too.

Craft and Christmas markets such as the one in Magdalen Road or the Fore Street Flea also allow locals to socialise in a way that our modern working week and online shopping doesn’t. It becomes a focal point and a great conversation starter for neighbours.

Keep your city unique

Local businesses give a community its flavour. UK cities have similar chain restaurants, supermarkets and high street shops but that cafe down the street where you have breakfast every Saturday morning is one-of-a-kind. The combined presence of your city’s many local businesses makes it different from every other city in the world. By supporting those businesses instead of chains, you ensure that uniqueness is preserved as a part of your community.

More personalized service

Having the owner nearby means that they personally get to know their customers. For example, as a local estate agent based in St Leonard’s we know the area well, know what schools and facilities there are and can give good advice to individuals and families looking to move here. We often know about properties that are about to come on to the market before they have been officially advertised too. Over the years our agents have got to know many people and vendors use us time and again to manage their sales, knowing how hands-on we are at finding the best buyer, holding deals together and chasing solicitors. Being independent allows us to take initiative and work individually on each sale or letting we take on.

Ultimately buying local has benefits beyond mere convenience, you get a better level of service and leave having made a new connection within your community. Being an interactive member of a community has proven to reduce stress levels whilst at the same time making your area a better place to live. It’s a win-win situation and one we can all embrace this December. #BuyLocal reminds us all to make the effort to support our local independent businesses and the place they have in our society. If we don’t use them we will lose them.