Buying Local. Or not.

I was part of a discussion this week. A mother wanted to purchase her child an item and was wondering whether she could buy it locally, pointing out the place she knew would have stocked it had closed. I offered that she could probably purchase the item in the next suburb, at the locally owned store, where the item was in stock and the price was $44.95.

Other mothers in the discussion offered up online alternatives, saying the item was available online for cheaper at $39.95 from the UK or USA. With most of these suggestions came the catch cry “I like to buy local but…”

I bit my tongue as unbeknownst to them, I was in fact the owner of the local shop in question and the price difference they were loudly proclaiming was simply GST. This is not about GST though; it is about what you choose to support.

Here is the thing, you either buy local or you don’t.

It IS that simple.

You either buy from a local store, who employs local people, who pays taxes to your government to provide you with services, or you don’t.

You either support the local store that supports the community, or you don’t, and the community loses that local store. The landlord loses the rent, the school loses the prizes that store would have donated, local and national charities lose the funds that store would have raised, and the community has one less place to congregate.

You either buy local or you don’t.

As another dear local store closes over in the next suburb, a toy store, I see people bemoan the loss of another local store and that all the local stores seem to be closing. “Such a loss isn’t it…” “What a shame..”  “They are such a great little store.”

A store, unfortunately, cannot survive on platitudes. They require your support.

“I like to support local, but…”


The monolithic international stores who sell their stock at cost or just above, who are exempt from tax in our country (be it right or wrong) will not support your community, nor care if your local school has a raffle coming up and needs donations. They will not hire local people nor pay taxes to go towards our infrastructure or healthcare. They will just continue with their aggressive marketing plan to wipe out small local stores until they are what remain.

There is no ‘but’. You either shop and buy local or you don’t.

And if you don’t buy local and support local; you will lose local. Probably forever.

It really is that simple.


Tanya Caunce for TLC BOOKS


24 Comments on “Buying Local. Or not.”

  1. Derek Miles says:

    Fantastic article. Well done. I get really riled when I hear business coaches and business strategists push the concept of outsourcing overseas. They just don’t get it. Yes it is cheaper. But no, in the long run the community suffers and eventually no-one will have a job to buy the goods and services provided by local businesses. It is a downward spiral.

  2. You are either absolutely wrong or absolutely right. There is no nuance. There is no shade of grey. There is no subtle commercial dynamic. There is no delicate intra-community relationship. There is no temporal sway. You either buy it right here right now for the price I say or don’t come into my store ever again. Got it?

    • tlcbooks says:

      There are many many factors that come into play, indeed. There is a very special community relationship and many commercial factors that come into play, personal perceptions of wealth as well as community perceptions of national financial health.

      I appreciate that people will choose to save the $5 from my example and support the international. I hope at least that more people are aware of some of the ramifications of that and if it’s a conscious decision, so be it.

      It does come down to a simple fact, with every purchase you make you are either supporting local, or you’re not.

      • With every purchase anybody makes they are supporting the vendor who provides the best value. Value is the essence of any commercial relationship, not just geography in isolation. If the local merchant isn’t providing the best value, why should we subsidise him/her? I would prefer that local merchant to find another way to deliver value, either by improving service, lowering prices, sourcing or manufacturing better products, or discovering a different business in which they can excel.

        I understand you are saying I should support local people just because they are local. Do you lend your car to that guy across the road whenever he needs wheels? Do you cook dinner for the family next door so they can spend more time watching TV? Do you feed every cat that comes into your yard? Do you only listen to local bands? Do you only wear clothes that are made in your suburb? Was your spouse born in your local hospital? If you answered “yes” to every question, please tell me where you live. I will open a store near you and sell you more stuff. But I will need you to pay in advance. Don’t worry, you can trust me. I’m a local.

        • tlcbooks says:

          Actually Frank, what I am saying is that you make a decision with every dollar you spend as to what you support. And there are some serious ramifications of those dollars.

          I am also saying OWN YOUR DECISION. If you choose to support internationals for whatever reason, own that decision and do not mourn the passing of local diversity. many people don’t understand that many global business operate on a predatory and unsustainable marketing/sales model that is geared to driving small business OUT of business.

          My partner bought a very expensive coffee machine a week ago. He saw it online during his research for about $400 cheaper from an international but wanted to support our local coffee machine place. He went in and explained that he knew that about $300 of that was GST but could the local come down a little or at least explain the difference. The local explained and reduced the price by about $100.

          There will always be many examples you can pull out of the bag that don’t apply like the list you typed, but yes, I do lend my car to people who need it, feed cats that come in my yard, cook dinner for the neighbours on occasion, listen to local bands and wear handmade but that’s just how I roll.

          My spouse was born and raised locally too, lucky me 🙂

          • You make a good point about not mourning the passing of local diversity. If we value local diversity, and I do, it pays to consider the advantages of buying local whenever practical and desirable.

            I think it is fantastic that you support your local merchants, neighbors, animals, and bands and that you wear hand made clothes!

            Congratulations for finding a local spouse about whom you feel lucky!

      • p.s. The time stamps on the comments are not Queensland time. Is your blog host local?

        • Kel says:

          I think having a dig about where the blog host may or may not be is a cheap shot at an otherwise very valid point being made by tlcbooks.
          Where possible I buy local. I much prefer to support a local business and pay a few extra dollars than buy from overseas.

          • Kel, Why do you conclude that I am “having a dig” about whether the blog host is local or not? Wouldn’t it make sense to have a local blog hosted locally? Irregardless of where the blog is hosted, wouldn’t it be more useful to have local time stamps on the comments?

    • Leon Tribe says:

      I think what is being highlighted is the link between buying online and the reduction in local suppliers. This was also the case 10-20 years ago with Coles/Woolworths and the, mostly lost, corner butcher store.

      As you say, Frank, if the value is not there people will not support it but it is then disingenuous to complain about the loss of local buying channels.

      Books are an interesting one because of the cultural link. With the reduction in local channels, people will be reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone more than they will be reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. With limited local channels, local publishers will also find it difficult to distribute which, in turn, limits the outlets for local authors.

      From an economic perspective, this is not a big deal. The most efficient means of supply wins and dominates. We see this today with comics, dominated by Marvel and DC. If, as an individual, you feel economic forces should not determine our reading material, you know what to do. If you don’t care, there is Amazon. Most people don’t consider these aspects and simply buy based on convenience, which is fine but the consequence is still there.

  3. jathar says:

    the Internet makes any store international now.

    my supervisor wanted to start a business. it took me about a day to research what i needed to sell online and build an active website. it took me about 20 mins to set up the website framework with buttons from paypal, and about 3 hours to make a nice looking website.

    every time i find an american speciality store with a unique product, i am disgusted by their isolationism. it is usually impossible to buy their products anywhere but their local area. the only place that exists is america, and it is only worth selling to americans.

    as a consumer in the age of the internet, i feel it is my duty to make my products available to the world. it is not hard to do, and is not just for community minded megacorperations who realise that small mindedness is not profitable.

    • tlcbooks says:

      Yes, many local stores supply internationally, and it is a wonderful thing 🙂 . Some stores also make the decision to not sell online, or outside their country due to many reasons, including taxes that would negatively impact them, high shipping costs or the legislation/insurance involved.

      I could write a whole other blog post on this!

      But this actual blog post is referring to the international faceless monoliths whose marketing plans are specific to wiping locally owned and operated business out until there is no competition.

      Congrats on your business!

  4. bec vincent says:

    Frank MacGill you are a d#@k!

  5. I love to buy local (I like the instant gratification amongst other things) but I have deliberately stopped buying at particular shops before because they LACKED the community spirit and loyalty of locals. I watched a local store owner bad mouth his clientele all over Facebook, rant about people who come in but don’t buy, completely insult the people who defended those he was ranting about, and then claim that he didn’t need to be polite to ‘those’ people because it was his shop, his rules, he had 2 PhDs, a life time of experience and anyone telling him how he should run his business wasn’t welcome either. I didn’t engage, he wasn’t insulting me personally, but frankly I don’t need that. I buy local. I want my business owners to sell to locals. But I will not buy from him ever again. On a separate, but related, note- as a plus size woman, it is extremely hard to buy clothes that fit me locally. Yes, I then shop online. But the few shops that DO have clothes that fit? You bet I will drop some cash on them! Building a good rapport with your local shop owner is important- but that is NOT just on the buyer.

  6. Carol says:

    I have only one small comment to make in favour of purchasing local – and that is if we do continue to purchase from overseas all local content will have to close because they can’t pay their rent. What will happen when all things come in from overseas including ‘fresh’ fruit and vegetables etc. ‘fresh’ meats and ‘fresh’ milk…..I personally believe it is false economy as we will all pay for those savings in the long run…..when you purchase overseas then more jobs are lost here in the big industries like the building industry. Also the Australian standards will be moot because no one is purchasing here. I don’t know if things that are purchased from overseas to be used here need to have our ASA on them. So are they inferior products???? I don’t know…..

  7. Christina Macdonald says:

    Live local, think local. buy local.

  8. concommerce says:

    Tanya, we could not agree more. Basic economics tells us that local businesses are catalysts for success in any community. The exchange of raw materials and value added products that they provide creates a win-win-win situation for suppliers, stores and customers alike.

    Thanks for the read.

    Connected Commerce

    ~Shop Locally. Save Globally. All On One Network.~

  9. Tanya, this is a great article. As an Australian artist occasionally working with handmade retail stores in my local (South East QLD) area, I see there is a lot of pressure placed on artists and retailers to compete with mass-produced products that are sourced overseas. Buying local is a great answer for people like us, but often labour and materials costs price items in ‘local, handmade’ categories outside the range of a lot of potential customers. This is not even including GST.
    Ideally, what comprimise would you make between the artist, retailer and consumer?

  10. Tom and Jose says:

    Thanks for sharing, I can so relate to your blog. Jose (Wynnum Market)

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