Saturday, 27 June 2009

a letter to the editor; a letter to you

This is an open letter to those who want to support their community but 'don't have time'.
Just shop locally – as often as you can.
Every healthy community needs a healthy local economy.

Here's some context.
I'm convinced that Coles and Woolies/Safeway do indeed practise anti-competitive behaviour and that a grocery duopoly - often spawning local monopolies - is not healthy for the end-user nor for local communities.

The nature of capitalism being what it is, what else can we expect?

If, say, the local Safeway uses its purchasing power and economies of scale to start a price war against an independent supermarket OR greengrocer OR butcher OR service station, the attack can only succeed if consumers support them.

Many of us do indeed transfer our 'spend' away from locally-owned businesses: if these can't 'compete' (in what I consider to be unbalanced fight), they're gone.
Your average small independent greengrocer, for example, normally doesn't buy and sell (frequently export-subsidized) produce from Europe or North America, as the Big Two do.
Nor does your local independent refrigerate its stock for months and market itself as 'The Fresh Food People'.
Nor can a small business exert pressure on (often Australian) suppliers to force shelf prices down, or push a growing range of 'home (generic) brands' - keeping any (arguable) 'competition' within a single store.

That said, an increasing number of us don't jump ship.
We recognise that it's often worth paying an extra 10 or 15% for groceries if it means sustaining a business which, in turn, spends most its money - business inputs, sponsorships and profits - locally, rather than 'exporting' its spend to farmers and factories in Italy or China and profits to shareholders across the globe.

How many of us, driven by the savings, abandon their local hardware or nursery and scurry off to Bunnings every Saturday?
How many get their business stationery and equipment from Officeworks rather than 'the local bloke'?
Similarly, fast food from the corporates? Clothing from Target or DFO? Books from Amazon?

At the end of the day, it's our choice - and that's capitalism; that's 'democracy'.
But we shouldn't complain about the consequences unless we, as consumers, are prepared to do something about it.

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