Why local stores are such an important part of the community

Taking a stroll down the main street of a local shopping community is an adventure to be savoured and the fulfilment gained is separate from any shopping successes.

Each local village has a charm and unique character all its own. Who doesn’t love to see people filling the cafes and hear greetings from friends to each other with initiations to sit and join them? Or, watching families spending time together away from the modern-day distractions of this digital age?

A feeling of belonging is created and a reminder of a gentler time when life was conducted at a slower pace―an age when there was time to talk to others and connect with the community.

And local businesses are the lifeblood of any town. Here are seven reasons why:

1 Community identity

From the local supermarket to that quirky store, from the dog grooming business to an antiques emporium, coffee shop, yoga studio and beyond, small businesses contribute to the community’s identity. Many municipalities and tourism boards have prioritised preserving the community’s unique character―transforming that character into an advantage.

2 Local involvement

Small business owners are an integral part of the communities in which they live and work. They tend to be aware of how their decisions may impact upon their neighbours. They also tend to be actively involved in the community, for example, sponsoring the local footy teams, donating to causes like restoring a local park, or participating in community charity events.

3 Community health

Small business owners help to build a sense of community as their businesses tend to be people businesses. They often build relationships with their customers, knowing many of them by name as well as offering discounts to staff from other businesses within the community. As foot traffic to one business increases, other nearby businesses may benefit through increased exposure or referrals.

Some businesses also hire troubled youth―vital programs supporting young people which offers them a sense of identity and pride while giving them life skills that will help, in turn, make them valuable contributors to the community.

4 Local jobs

Small businesses are job creators, and most of those jobs are local jobs. Rather than having to commute, employees can work closer to home. Not only does this reduce traffic congestion, but keeps the town alive through viable employment.

5 Innovation & competition

Small businesses, like any business, need to stand out from the crowd in order to survive. They must serve a legitimate need in the community and do it better than their competitors. Having multiple small businesses all striving to be unique, innovative, and better can result in a healthy marketplace and well-served consumers.

6 Pedestrian friendly

Pedestrian-friendly town centres have their own unique vibe—and potential environmental benefits. For example, small businesses clustered near residential areas may reduce car use, resulting in better air quality and less urban sprawl. It also encourages families to visit as it is safer for children to run around, meaning less stress for parents and a joy for everybody.

7 Locally made products and services

One-of-a-kind and locally made products can attract customers to a community, bolstering tourism and contributing to the local vibe. Locally made goods are also attractive to residents who want to minimise their carbon footprints.

By Tui Cordemans, who is the owner of Koh Living