Why you need to shop small this Christmas

- December 8, 2018 4 MIN READ

Where you shop has an impact on whether a small business lives or dies, writes Cynthia Marinakos. But it also creates community.

I have a fascinating relationship with my local butcher, Justine.

She’s honest: She tells me which sausages she likes from her display — and which she doesn’t.

She cares: She shares recipes her family love such as her super simple slow cooker pulled pork. She listens when I speak — and remembers our conversations next time I visit.

She services: She gives me complimentary products, gets me the best cuts, and always has time for me.

We chat about how the business is going. About our weekends away. Our next holiday. How to entertain the kids during the holidays.

And how embarrassed she was when firemen and the neighbours saw her half naked after she left her oven on while she was in the shower — and almost burnt down her house!

We’ve even begun a mini book club, swapping books and talking books.

Justine’s store is actually out of my way, and stands alone.

It’s much more convenient for me to get everything I need from my local shopping centre. It’s often cheaper to buy from the bigger stores.

But big stores don’t know my name. The shop floor is staffed by 15 year-olds who don’t even pretend to care. So I’d rather pay that little bit extra for premium products and premium service. But mostly, because I like Justine and I want to keep her family business running.

Where do you shop?

To many people, Christmas is stressful so big shopping centres win for their convenience, choice, and prices. In 2017, we spent $26 billion during Christmas.

Most shoppers never stopped to think: Where is our money really going? And: Where would we prefer it to go — overseas or right here in our city?

In August 2018, AMEX released the results of their report, ‘The Economy of Shopping Small: Back Your Backyard’. Approximately 1,000 customers and 850 business owners were surveyed across Australia.

They found this: Consumers would rather buy from small businesses than larger ones. They care about small businesses — but 86% admit they could do more, especially those living in big cities.

For solo business owners, this is encouraging isn’t it?

Can where you shop really make an impact on whether a small business lives or dies?

My 4 favourite restaurants are all within 10 minutes from home. Sure, they make delicious food — but more than that, the owners make a special effort to smile, say hello, and remember my name. They respond to feedback and care about making every experience special.

In return, I bring clients regularly. I take my family to visit regularly. I tell everyone I know how awesome they are — and bring them there too.

Your shopping habits create employment opportunities and more shopping choices.

The Aussie AMEX report found this: Consumers and family members give small business the most support — even more than other large and small businesses. You, a solo business owner know this more than most: where people shop can make a difference to a small business.

Why shop small

Don’t buy from small, local businesses just because of that fact. Don’t buy if you don’t feel you’re getting anything in return for your hard-earned money.

In my home city of Melbourne, we recently paid tribute to small business owner, Sisto Malaspina, owner of the famous Pellegrini — one of the first real coffee shops in Melbourne.

In death, as in life, he impacted so many people. He was more than a coffee shop owner.

“I feel like an honorary grandfather to many,” Mr Malaspina said in an interview. “I work my 70 hours a week as I did 40, 45 years ago. It’s not as intensive, I don’t move as fast and I don’t take as many steps. But I still enjoy what I do, I feel needed,” he told.

Asked why people have returned to his coffee bar for more than 40 years:

“Pellegrini’s was the number one in the way it did things, the way things should be done — fresh ingredients, taken from the growers to the market to the shop. Everything done by hand. No mechanisation, no additives. Everything was simple, fresh and beautifully put together.”

Ever gracious. Browse through the many online tributes and you get a sense of who he was — by how he ran his restaurant. By how he treated people. By how he lived.

He was generous in life. With his presence. With his warm hospitality. With his love. His passion. His humanity. Sisto captured the essence of why we all need to support small businesses.

Shop small this Christmas

As solo business owners, you and I understand more than most how much we do for our clients and customers.

So buy small because:

You want unique, thoughtful, well-made products or services
You can sort out any issues without a hassle
You can speak directly to the business owner (rather than an overseas call centre)
You get friendly, responsive, caring service
You can feel the passion, dedication, and joy behind the business

Buy small because behind the success of every local small business there is a family…

And every time we shop small and local, the buck stays here. The jobs stay here. Our kids’ football clubs keep running and we can all enjoy Carols by Candlelight the park down the road.

7 simple ways to shop small and local this Christmas

  1. Browse through your business contact list
  2. Visit your local shopping strip
  3. Check your Instagram and Facebook feeds
  4. Ask for recommendations from work and school
  5. Visit your local farmer’s market or craft market
  6. Browse your community Facebook group
  7. Search for local businesses online

So go on my friend, shop small this Christmas

Cheers for reading 🙂 By the way, what local small business do you visit for special gifts and why? Do share, I’d love to know.


[Photo by Katy Belcher on Unsplash]