The Business Blog for Wales

Support your local economy at Christmas

indexThe shopping is finally finished, the presents are wrapped and under the tree, and at last you can relax with a festive tipple.

But as you start to unwind over a glass of sherry and a mince pie, how clear is your conscience about where you spent your Christmas pound?

Has your Christmas spending been done mostly online, in supermarkets or big-name stores? Or have you supported your local high street and independent traders?

At this time of year especially it’s easy to succumb to the temptations of retail parks, late-night opening and three-for-two offers. But if we really care about the future of our town centres, I think we all need to do our bit, however small, to make a difference. I run 3VTV, an on-line, on-demand TV channel specifically for Blaenau Gwent. A Welsh Government-funded project, our remit is to use digital marketing to try to help the local economy.

We’ve spent the past year working with small businesses in Tredegar, Ebbw Vale, Abertillery, Blaina and Brynmawr, helping them to promote themselves to the customers on their doorsteps, and further afield. I’ve spent the past year telling anyone who will listen about the hidden gems of Blaenau Gwent – the fabulous little shops people generally don’t expect to find in Valleys towns, but which I’m determined we’ll help put on the map.

So when it came to tackling my own Christmas shopping list, I had to put my money where my mouth is. This year, most of my family and friends will be unwrapping gifts purchased in Blaenau Gwent. I’m hoping this will mean some of them will get something a bit different – they won’t be opening a gift they’ve already seen on the shelf at their local branch of Ubiquitous-Fashion-Store-Or-Big-Name-Chemist-R-Us.

I’m not saying I’m perfect – my shopping halo has definitely slipped on a few occasions. One present in particular did come from a city department store, but there’s a good reason, honest. (I can’t explain right now, lest my mam and dad are reading this. I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise!) I found myself panic-buying on the internet last weekend. And then I forgot to get sticky tape in the card shop opposite the office, and had to resort to getting some at Asda.

But I have made a conscious decision to buy as much as I can from local independent retailers. And where I have shopped in big chains, I’ve done so in their Blaenau Gwent branch, thinking that at least some of my spend is staying local, even if it’s not as much as it would have been had all my shopping been done in those hidden gems.

No-one’s suggesting we go back to the days where all our shopping was done in the local town centre, out of sheer necessity. That would be unrealistic. It’s just about stopping yourself popping a couple of greetings cards into your supermarket trolley, and visiting your local card or gift shop instead. And stopping for a quick coffee in the independent café next door.

In 2012 I’ve been lucky enough to stumble across, meet and get to know the people behind Totally Locally, a marketing campaign designed to celebrate independent traders and encourage people to support them. In 2013, I hope we can bring their truly inspirational message to Blaenau Gwent.

What first grabbed my attention was their message about just how much difference shopping in these businesses can make to the local economy – and using their handy online calculator, you can quickly work out the maths for any area.

“If every adult in the Blaenau Gwent area spent just £5 per week in their local independent shops, instead of online or at the big supermarkets, it would be worth an extra £14.8 million per year going into the local economy.”

So if any fivers fall out of the cards you open this Christmas, you know where to spend them.

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