Buying Local: more than a nice idea

An interesting opinion piece on the rationale of buy local campaigns appeared in the Globe and Mail last Friday titled ‘Buy Local’: Nice idea, but does it make sense?. The article gives a take on the local economy movement and buy local campaigns, ultimately leading to the conclusion that they can be dangerous to our own global competitiveness.

This opinion piece is a gift. It clearly spotlights the concerns and reservations that many have about ‘buying local’ including questions like: what is local?; what would happen if everyone ‘bought local’?; can I be a local economy advocate and still want to buy products not produced here? If I desire to scale my business to other markets am I still a local business?

These are the questions we at LOCO think and talk about every day. While we agree with the author that ‘local’ needs to be better defined, we don’t agree that focusing on local is hypocritical or takes away from global competitiveness. For us, the goal is to increase the benefit to our local economy by looking at how we can recirculate more dollars to local businesses in the province and within Canada. A small shift in dollars can have large economic impacts. Research shows that a 1% shift in consumer spending towards local businesses can result in 3100 jobs and $94 million in additional wages to the BC economy. This is a huge local economic impact that does not have a proportionate impact in national or global spending. In fact, one could argue that this economic impact strengthens consumer spending to benefit everyone.

This also leads us to consider a bigger question, how can national and international organizations contribute to the communities and economies where they operate? How can they support the communities that contribute to their revenues? How can they support the economic, environmental and social resilience of these communities so those communities can continue to contribute to their revenues over the long term? In our view a focus on local purchasing and increasing the percentage of dollars that they spend in the communities where they operate should be a key focus.

As we consider these questions at LOCO we’ve started working on our definition of local from the perspective of local economic development. We are soliciting feedback and we’d love to hear your thoughts. As a shopper or purchaser what does this model mean to you? As a business owner how does this model apply to how you want to grow your business?  How can we develop this model further? Send us your thoughts, LOCO wants to know!

LOCO Degrees Of Local Business



  1. Thank you for raising the issues and opportunities of localism. I agree that we need to do more work around the definition of “local” and what that means in terms of local economic development and it’s great to see LOCO at the forefront of this work.

    I also think that there should be a finer level of local, something that is more city or even neighbourhood focussed. To me, province-wide seems too large for the smallest definition of local.

  2. Great post. I totally agree. My neighbourhood IGA, Mount Lehman IGA is closing down. It was owned by a local family and featured many local products (heck I even found local carrots there in the fall and winter).
    Unfortunately, about a year ago a WalMart Supercentre opened in the same area and no one went to IGA anymore.
    Sure the WalMart created some jobs…actually my sister works there. She is a single mom and only gets max about 15 hours a week so they are not creating really good jobs (living wage, full time). The IGA had a bunch of full time employees that recognized me everytime I went there. That’s got to count for something.
    Economically, at the end of the day, Wal-Mart’s profits end up somewhere in the US whereas when I shopped at Mount Lehman IGA I knew all the money stayed in the community and was re-circulated.
    Some people argue that WalMart’s prices are lower, so it is better for consumers. But I wonder people actually save money in the long run by shopping at places like WalMart and Costco because what they may save on groceries, they probably spend on other stuff. I have observed that once you go into a store like that, you always end up spending more than you intended; usually on some extra useless Made in China junk that will be thrown out in 3 months….
    Those are my random thoughts. Keep up the good work, LOCO!

  3. Katja Macura says:

    Nicole Chaland and Michael Shuman from the SFU Community Economic Development program also have a response to the Globe and Mail article.

    Check it out: The Golden Rule of Localism

  4. Thanks for sharing this. I’m very sorry to hear you’re losing your grocery store. Unfortunately Abbotsford even gave the developer a tax break to put in a store that eliminated other, more local stores. There is a lot of work to be done to educate policy makers, businesses and consumers about the importance of local.

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