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Lia Beveridge

Imagine a city where every shop sells the same items. Costco, Walmart, Boston Pizza, Chapters are the norm. Now imagine a city where each store is unique. A city where small businesses — independent restaurants, markets, clothing stores — thrive creating a unique and vibrant community. These unique cities exist because the term “support local” has been brought to the forefront over the last eight years with the help of local advocate group I Love Local HFX and the Halifax Chamber of Commerce. I Love Local HFX promotes their message through a network of local businesses, bumper stickers and events throughout the year such as Open City.

According to BDC, 99.7 per cent of the Canadian economy is built on small to medium-size businesses and Nova Scotia isn’t that different. “So many people have neighbours and family that are small businesses,” says Becky Davison, Director of Marketing at the Halifax Chamber of Commerce. By supporting these, it ensures a sustainable Halifax as they in turn support the economy with job creation, tax revenue and community involvement.

“No definition of local is ever going to be perfect and have everyone agree to it,” says Gordon Stevens, founder of I Love Local HFX. The most important question to ask is whether the profits stay in the region. “The business needs to be locally owned and operated,” says Stevens, “they don’t need to sell local products, but they need to be able to clearly show that they’re supporting the community.”

The biggest challenge for supporting local that both Stevens and Davison see is online shopping and breaking consumers shopping habits. “We’re not competing against our neighbours. We’re competing against online, box stores and foreign multinationals to really preserve what local food, local retail looks like,” says Stevens.

That was the idea behind the last day of Small Business Week, run by the Halifax Chamber in partnership with BDC from Oct. 15-19, 2018. The contest urged Haligonians to tag a photo while out shopping local, using the hashtag #SHOPLOCALHFX. The idea for Davison is to get the community to think about the value of spending their dollars locally. I Love Local HFX based Open City around the same premise. Open City is a day when many local businesses run promotions for the day, such as restaurants selling bite-size tasters out their back door, to “give the community reasons to get out and explore, to discover or rediscover some of the great local retail shops that exist,” according to Davison. “If you don’t go and support them then they’re at risk of being gone and you lose an element of the community that you valued but never supported.”

“Compared to a lot of other cities, we’re doing exceptionally well,” says Stevens, “a number of jurisdictions have reached out to ask us how we do it.” He credits Haligonians with being much more aware of the benefits to buying local, whether it be food, clothing or liquor, than when he started. He has seen a rapid appreciation and growth of the movement between consumers and businesses.

“Nova Scotians in general have a spirit to want to support local,” says Davison. But there’s still work to be done. “Show up to your friends’ and neighbours’ businesses and say, ‘I’m here to support you,’ because really to them, the small business owner, it means the absolute world.”

We hope you can join us for the 2019 Halifax Small Business Week happening Oct. 21–25, 2019. Head to HalifaxSmallBusinessWeek.com for a full calendar of FREE events!

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