THERE may be not be a butcher, baker and candlestick-maker in every small country town, but rural communities are behind a push to keep money local to support their small businesses.
This year, the New England town of Armidale is celebrating five years of the successful Locals 4 Locals program.
The not-for-profit group began in 2011, when president Greg Jackson, Jackson Quality Meats, came up with the idea as a way of encouraging community members to shop local and support small businesses.
“I was noticing a lot of shops closing down and big supermarkets encouraging sporting clubs to go away from their normal fundraisers of a meat tray or fruit tray to vouchers, which was having a big impact on small businesses in the community,” Mr Jackson said.
“What makes a really strong, viable community is the little groups among it, that need the support of local businesses, and in turn, they support those businesses.”
Mr Jackson also noticed the effect online shopping was having on local businesses.
“At the local clothes shop, people were coming in, trying on the clothes, then ordering online, and with the bike shop, people were coming in, measuring what bike they needed, then ordering it online, but then they’re more than happy to bring them in when they get a puncture or something goes wrong.”
The result was an education and awareness program to consumers using the Locals 4 Locals logo.
The group has nearly 100 business members, from trades to retail and professional services.
Each member commits to supporting local charities, fundraisers, schools and sporting groups, whether through volunteering or supporting fundraising.
“If there is an opportunity where you can support a local small business, do that so that the local groups and schools can benefit as well,” Mr Jackson said.
“Most small business people are aware of their commitment and obligations to the town. The bigger companies do their bit as well, but they’re generally supporting massive charities, not the local crochet group or the local sporting car clubs. I’d rather, with my pie, be able to divide it 50 ways, rather than help one group, because community groups are the backbone of a strong town.”
The program has also resulted in stronger ties between businesses.
“There’s no point being the most successful business in a dead town – I’d rather see all those smaller businesses do well together,” Mr Jackson said.
With more local businesses going online, it’s no longer seen as a threat, but an opportunity.
Mr Jackson is one of many Armidale business owners using the internet to reach more consumers.
Jackson Quality Meats has an extensive online store, with orders picked up from the store or delivered within the Armidale town boundaries.
“We’ve got nothing against online shopping. We’d love to see more of our local businesses go online, because the focus for us is that people support small businesses, whether they’re online or on the street.”