Article by Cheryl McKenna – office manager and licensed estate agent.

“Support local business” is a catch cry we hear often, but why is it important?  Does it really make that much of a difference?

With large chain stores now stocking everything from milk and bread, to plants, clothing, shoes, nails and screws, we can buy everything we need in the one place.  But I challenge you – ask the kid stocking the aisle what cut of meat is going to be best for your stew, or if this plant will grow well in the shade, or even when the apples on display were picked and I pretty well guarantee you will be met with a blank stare.

But take your question to the local nursery and the lovely owner will ask you to describe the space you are looking to fill with a plant, show you a selection of plants to meet the brief and be able to give you a local native alternative should you wish.

A similar story when you visit the local brewery, fruiterer, newsagent, butcher, baker and candlestick maker.

Local businesses are owned by locals.  They employ other locals.  They pay rates to the local council.  Their children go to the local schools.  They spend their money in the local community.  Research has shown that $10 spent with a local independent shop means up to an additional $50 that goes back into the community.

Small local businesses are an important drawcard for tourism.  Consider your own travelling experiences – when you wander down the street of a new town are you more likely to enter a large chain store (the same as the one you have at home) or into a smaller local shop with products often unique or specialist to the area?  These small local businesses are run by local people, not boards of directors or stockholders.  They are specialists in the area.  They have local knowledge and are always happy to share it with newcomers.

Tradition abounds in many small local businesses.  Dad is the real estate agent, Mum does the books, the young ‘uns deliver the flyers for new listings.  Until one day the young ‘uns are running their own agencies, with dad still sitting in the back room giving advice, asking clients who their parents are and being able to cite the previous owners of most of the homes in the local area.  To give back to their community this local agency gives a gift to clients of beautiful chopping boards, made buy a local business that supports employees with a disability, or a voucher for a meal at one of our locally owned restaurants, and an Easter gift of a voucher for lunch at one of our many amazing local cafes.  They also donate to the local rose show, support the local toy library and many other community causes.  The staff that this agency employs live locally and have children that attend local schools.  It is the great circle of local life.

One step further are the local produce markets.  These people are truly clever individuals who have been able to turn their passion into an income.  Is there anything better than being able to shop for vegetables that have been picked that morning?  The only thing I can think of that is better is picking it from your own garden.

The environment benefits when we shop locally, particularly when shopping for produce and food products.  These are mostly grown, sourced or made locally, from local ingredients, in turn requiring less transportation and packaging resulting in a lower energy footprint.

To be able to purchase a handmade one-of-a-kind baby blanket from a local mother who makes them with her mother in her spare time; or to buy an amazing homemade tomato sauce made by a local footy trainer from home grown and locally sourced produce; to buy a candle made with goats milk, milked from goats that live just a few kilometres from the town centre made by a mother of three living on a farm; to buy a unique hand made dining table, made in a workshop at the back of a garage from locally milled timber by a retired builder, keeping him out of his wife’s hair.

When we buy locally we support the people who live in our community, we maintain variety in the shops in our local area and we keep our money local.  Sadly it is often a case of ‘you don’t know what you have until its gone’. So support it today, it will support you back.