Over this past month many organisations have encouraged us, as consumers, to shop and support local businesses over the festive period with campaigns by Cywain and Bro360 being prominent here in Wales. But how important is it to shop local for our rural communities and do we need to do more to ensure a more sustainable future for rural Wales?
Recent research by Visa shows that for every £10 we spend in local businesses, more than a third directly stays within the local area and, therefore, doubles the amount that circulates within the local economy. However, this research doesn’t give the full rural picture. A more localised approach can be seen by 4CG, a co-operative organisation that supports community development in Cardigan and surrounding area. Its work, along with exciting new local business, has transformed the high street and proves there is still a demand for a traditional vibrant market town in rural Wales. Its research also tells a similar story of the snowball effect that shopping in local businesses can achieve; from each £100 spent in a local store in the area on average it creates £600 to the local economy. But what is staggering is comparing the same amount when shopping in a large supermarket contributes just 25p to the local economy. The work carried out here gives us more of an understanding of the importance of the circular economy to a rural area like Cardigan.
Therefore, these statistics demonstrate the economic value of shopping locally to rural communities. But, with one in five shops in Wales’s high street currently empty, more of a conscious effort is needed to regenerate our rural communities, which in the end will create bustling and unique high streets. Evident of this is Crickhowell that has a thriving independent high street with most units locally owned. Local business owners tend to support the local economy further by either spending their profits with other local businesses, supporting local charities or investing in local organisations, which means supporting local businesses is morally the right thing to do.
It is not only the profits of the businesses that create more wealth to the area but by supporting local businesses, it can create a healthier economy too. By choosing the smaller and localised option rather than national chains, it gives an opportunity for entrepreneurs to get their foot in the door and set up a business. Not only that, local businesses are more likely to pay a higher average wage than their commercial chain counterpart and can ensure people have the opportunity to keep living in rural areas.
Most of local businesses are an integral part of the foundational economy, therefore, are needed in our daily lives. The foundational economy accounts to 40% of the workforce in Wales; that means by choosing to shop local in a rural economy, there is a high chance that you will also support the strengthening of the general Welsh economy.
There is also an underlying environmental aspect in shopping local by deciding to travel less for the services and the businesses themselves, selling local produce that helps reduce their carbon footprint. This, itself, also has an economic impact by supporting other local businesses that are not always found on the high streets.
The importance of shopping locally with businesses rooted in our rural communities is clear and if we want to form a national recovery for rural areas following the pandemic, it is more important than ever that we consciously choose to shop local throughout the year and not just for Christmas.