1.04 Amy Robinson: Shopping For Good

Owning the majority of purchasing decisions, moms are an economic force. They are also run our parent advisory committees, frequent our parks and are generally the backbone of our local neighbourhoods. When we direct our spending to our local economy rather than large multinationals, our neighbourhoods experience a massive benefit. Amy Robinson of LOCO BC shares why.

Amy Robinson, LOCO BC - Leading Moms Podcast

Leading Moms Podcast Transcript: Amy Robinson, Shopping For Good

Hi, everybody. I’m going to talk about business and I’m going to talk about money and the economy and how our spending creates strong communities.

I think we need to teach our kids about money and about the economy and not just about how to save but how we put value into the things that are in our community and that’s how our money flows and how our value flows and how that can strengthen our communities.

When I think about how did I get that value? How do we teach kids values? Because when my parents, I definitely got that value from my parents – and yet it was never explicitly stated to me that you supported farmers and that you supported locally on businesses. And so, I’m going to tell you about my roots and how I got that value.

This is my mother’s mother’s community: Harriston, Ontario. My mother and father were raised in the Greenbelt on Ontario in two towns, twelve kilometers apart: Harriston and Palmerston. And if you lived in Harriston or Palmerston, you either farmed or you worked in the supply chain of the auto parts industry.

I spent my childhood driving – we lived in Ottawa at this time – I spent my childhood, every long weekend, five of us and our dog in a cage, piled in the car and we drove to Southwestern Ontario, six-hour drive and we spent our weekends in those communities. My grandparents no longer farmed but my great uncle and aunt farmed. So, I visited farms along the way and spent other time gathering eggs and produce, and buckets of honey from local farmers that my mother still knew.

From maple syrup and apple butter from the Mennonites and I guess it just got infused in me that that was an important thing to do. If you bought my father a gift, it better damn well say Made In Canada on it because the livelihoods of the people he knew depended on it. He bought Ford cars exclusively his entire life and it’s because of the manufacturing jobs that the Ford assembly plant in Ontario provided for people he knew or the supply chain of the auto parts industry, the people he knew.

The people of Harriston and Palmerston know a thing about how buying local supports a strong community as well. This is the L&M Market – this one is in Harriston. There’s also one in Palmerston, it’s like a six little chainlet in Southwestern Ontario. It is not a fancy store and it’s for salt-of-the-earth people.

For a while, L&M and I think nine other similar small businesses in Southwestern Ontario came into a relationship with Sobeys, who is Canada’s second largest food retailer. They have fifteen hundred stores across the province – across the country rather – and they operate so many brands. Brands you might recognize here are Thrifty Foods, Safeway Canada, I think there are Sobeys stores in BC.

Sobeys has a corporate policy that they only sell meat from federally inspected plants. Most federally inspected meat comes from huge multinational corporations like Maple Leaf Foods.

Small farmers in Ontario don’t take their meat to federally inspected plants. It’s expensive to do. It requires transport. L&M Markets quickly found out that they could not sell the beef from their neighbours.

So they relocalized their ownership and they now sell meat products from Harriston and Palmerston. They knew that it would break their community if they couldn’t sell their neighbours’ beef.

How this works is that when you buy from a local business, they support other local businesses and I’ll tell you how in a minute but when you spend $100 if you spend it with a locally-owned business, $46 stays in your community. And if you spend it with a multinational chain, $18 stays in your community. So, that’s 2.6 times the economic benefit.

How does this happen?

Well, local businesses, we’d love them to be local-minded and we try to teach them how they can connect and support each other through purchasing relationships and other things. But even if they’re not that locally minded, they’re small – most of them are small. They are just more likely to use a local bank or credit union, to use a local accounting firm, to use local marketing and legal services.

So, that money circulates and flows in the community, creating that multiplier effect and that ripple effect in the economy.

They also have other benefits, like increase charitable giving.

So, when we shift our purchasing towards local businesses, we can have a huge economic impact. Just 1% in consumers’ spending, if we could increase it towards local businesses in BC, creates 3,100 jobs in the province and could send 94 million dollars in wages to BC workers.

So, why should we care?

It’s not a pretty picture out there for small business, for local businesses in BC. This slide speaks to retailers but local businesses, independent businesses in BC are losing market share. They’ve lost fifteen percent of market share in the last eleven years. Those statistics are a little bit old. We’re going to update them in November.

BC retailers have the third lowest market share in the country. It’s not a pretty picture in agriculture, manufacturing either. In manufacturing, we just recorded the lowest amount of Canadian manufacturing since they started capturing statistics in 1976. In agriculture, in 1973, BC farmers produced 86% of the produce fruits and vegetables consumed in the province and now 44 years later, it’s 43% – so half.

LOCO’s mission is to get the message out. About why that’s important.

I started LOCO because I could see that there was an increase in interest in the local food movement and farmer’s markets and I thought, no one is talking about ownership, no one is talking about manufacturing. So, our mission is to grow that message to take the Why message across the province and beyond, and connect others into that movement. So, growing the local movement is the last word on this slide, that’s missed.

We also connect local businesses to work together, we want them to localize their supply chains, we want them to just help each other.

Small businesses are out there reinventing the wheel all over and over again. So, we hope that they’ll share resources and just help each other grow by connecting with contacts and suppliers. And then we promote the benefits of local businesses.

We do that through research, we do that through events. If you own a business, it’s great to come to our events. They’ve been called, my greatest compliment I think that I got about our events is that they are non-douchey networking. So, I think it’s a little bit because of our women leadership that they are authentic, they are intentional and we try to make them fun.

We also run a province-wide campaign called BC Buy Local, that is trying to illuminate the market. We thought: you can’t buy from BC-owned companies, you can’t buy BC-grown products and BC-made products unless you can see them. So. we’re really encouraging businesses to use this dot. We’re encouraging consumers to look for locally owned businesses. Even when you can’t shop with the locally owned business to look for locally grown and locally made products wherever you shop.

That’s my kid, Davis. He’s eleven and he says “Mama, remind me, why don’t we go to Starbucks?” And sometimes he gets so mad when I won’t take him to Toys R Us for that Harry Potter wand he wants or whatever he wants. I try to be explicit about the reasons but I hope that he’ll remember why. I hope that when we go out of our way to buy a local, stock our freezer with local berries before the winter, that those are the things that will stick with him and he’ll remember why we did that. So that, the L&M markets of the world will still be around in his future.

So, as moms and as women in Canada, we are an economic force. We make a lot of the financial decisions in our households.  We make a lot of the spending decisions in our households. I don’t want to give you another thing to do but I want you to think about how your spending supports strong communities and I want you to think how shifting local money towards local businesses can actually be fun and engaging.

Maybe just do that thing that moms do. We share information, right? We share, if you get a deal from a great local business then share that information with your friends and let them know, encourage them to shop at the place you shop and get the deals that you get and hopefully you can shift some of your shopping towards local businesses and strengthen your communities too.

Thanks for having me.

About Amy Robinson

Amy has 18 years experience working with businesses to embed sustainability into operations. She has worked with organizations ranging from small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to big industry, regional governments and the UN. However, she has a passion for small businesses, with their unique challenges and opportunities. Amy started the not-for-profit LOCO BC in 2009 to connect, support and promote local businesses while advocating for increased local spending by consumers, businesses and institutions. LOCO’s work springs from her perception that BC undervalues the economic and social pillars of sustainability that strengthen communities, build resilience and foster innovation.

About the Leading Moms Podcast

Welcome to the Leading Moms podcast, where every mom has a story. Launched in 2012, Leading Moms started as an annual one-day event in Vancouver, BC, with an aim for each mom to recognize her significance and belonging, gain a sense of mastery and be impactful in her business, community – or the simple everyday of her family. Now these thought-provoking, inspirational talks are available on this podcast. Join your host Christine Pilkington, entrepreneur, publisher and TV mom expert, every other week as she shares the best talks from the past six years and more.

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