Shopping local keeps money in Manitoba


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While we may not have a bank account deep enough to pull off a blockbuster deal like James Richardson & Sons did this week, we can — in our own small way — share the sentiment of supporting independent Manitoba businesses.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 09/01/2021 (878 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

While we may not have a bank account deep enough to pull off a blockbuster deal like James Richardson & Sons did this week, we can — in our own small way — share the sentiment of supporting independent Manitoba businesses.

The Richardsons’ purchase of the trucking firm Bison Transport, which has about $1 billion in annual revenue, was a deal between two Manitoba family-owned companies. It’s a commendable example of keeping a local company’s ownership, and the resulting capital, in the city.

Retail businesses can only hope consumers echo this buy-local sentiment. When the code-red restrictions are lifted, the economy of this pandemic-wracked province will recover more quickly if retail shoppers share the Richardsons’ understanding of the importance of keeping the money in Manitoba.

It’s a cliché to say we vote with our dollars, but such an attitude will be particularly important when the COVID-19 lockdowns lift. Local retailers, at least those still standing, have suffered greatly during the pandemic unpredictability, crippled by health orders that demanded they either close or adhere to restrictions that are strangling their businesses.

Yes, there have been government initiatives aimed at supporting small businesses, but such programs have mostly proved to be woefully inadequate to stem the bleeding for the business owners who — although they had little or no income from customers — still had to pay rent, taxes, utilities and bank loans. For some independent business people without the financial security of a corporate chain with deep pockets, paying the bills has wiped out their personal savings and assets.

How well local businesses can bounce back from life support depends largely on whether the Manitoba public understands that shopping locally is now critically important.

Yes, it takes more legwork to search out stores that are locally owned and operated. Instead of buying flowers at a chain grocery store, for example, we can choose to spend our money with Callia Flowers, a company started by Winnipeg women who deliver their flowers throughout the city.

Instead of bellying up to the bar and ordering a Budweiser brewed by an international entity, we can instead sip suds crafted by Winnipeg firms such as Half Pints Brewing Co. or Nonsuch Brewing Co.

Our personal-care products, including soaps, deodrants and shampoos, can be bought at local stores such as Tiber River Naturals, started in 1999 by two Winnipeg women, one of whom was making zucchini lemon soap in her basement.

For shoppers who don’t care that profits from their food spending leave the province, there’s no shortage of chain grocery stores. But we can instead buy from Manitoba-owned bakers and butchers. In Winnipeg, a loyal choice is to support Food Fare outlets, which are independent and family owned and operated.

The frank truth is that shopping local is not always the fastest or cheapest option. Many shut-in Manitoba consumers have grown accustomed to ordering online from American multinationals such as Amazon. The hope is that Manitobans will recognize the danger of allowing profits from their purchases to go to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezo, whose fortune is estimated to be US$138 billion, and instead want their money to strengthen Manitoba and the local businesses that employ Manitobans and support other Manitoba businesses.

In practical terms, it means that instead of buying a book through Amazon, we visit locally-owned bookseller McNally Robinson to buy the book and perhaps enjoy a coffee and pastry at their in-store cafe.

When we take the time and trouble to support local businesses, the benefits of our spending expands in what is called the multiplier effect. For example, when customers forgo a chain restaurant and instead support a locally owned restaurant, the restaurant can in turn buy from local suppliers and hire local professionals, such as accountants, designers and insurance agents.

A non-monetary way to support local businesses is to help create a buzz when we’ve had a positive shopping experience. When we buy funky footwear from Manitobah Mukluks and Moccasins, we can post a picture of our snugly clad feet and offer glowing comments on our social-media accounts.

Locally owned businesses are often landmarks in their community, giving unique colour. The owners — perhaps people we know because our kids play on the same soccer team — are particularly invested in connecting with their customers and offering great service because their livelihood depends on it.

Entrepreneurs who start businesses are a hardy breed, but even the most resilient among them has been shaken by the past 10 months of tumult.

They believed enough in Manitoba to stake their future on this province. When their doors reopen, those of us who also believe in Manitoba need to show them extra love.

Carl DeGurse is a member of the Free Press editorial board.

Carl DeGurse

Carl DeGurse
Senior copy editor

Carl DeGurse’s role at the Free Press is a matter of opinion. A lot of opinions.

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