The issue of cross border shopping was front and centre on the weekend with the changes to the duty-free allowances for travelers to the U.S.
Of course as one of the many border towns that will feel the impact of these changes the most, it was interesting to hear comments from some merchants in a recent Trail Daily Times news story.
While some admitted the changes will be another hit to the bottom line of local businesses, others were confident their prices and customer loyalty will rule the day and the impact, albeit inevitable, will be minimal.
So there you have it. And caught in the middle are the consumers.
Who can blame any shopper for trying to get the best bargain for their hard-earned cash?
After all, we’re told to cut down on our debt yet the cost of living keeps climbing faster than most wages. We’re told to save for the future but if we stop spending the economy will come to a standstill.
So when it comes to dishing out our cash for goods, the bottom line is often the determining line.
While, shopping local for many goods may not have the immediate impact on our wallets we wish to see, the long-term benefits are definitely there front and centre.
By supporting local businesses we not only put money back into the community but we add to the livability of our community. As bad as some people want to paint downtown Trail, imagine what it would be like if the city had no businesses – no grocery stores, department stores, pharmacies or restaurants.
Is that the type of town you would want to live in? Of course not.
Purchasing opportunities aside, remember that these stores are more than just consumer outlets. They are part of our social fabric.
These shops help our kids get that first job, earn that extra cash and start building a resume.
These stores pay taxes, which go back into our community.
These businesses support charities and events that otherwise wouldn’t happen.
Consider the last time you gave a big donation to a charity. For many, it would be tough to think of one, yet year after year those same organizations go knocking on the doors of small, local businesses, which respond more often than not.
Sure some people will complain the service and selection isn’t always what they would find in Kelowna or Spokane but surely there are places in those centres that sometimes don’t even meet those lofty expectations.
There are lots of excuses for shopping across the border and I’ll admit to a traditional back-to-school shopping trip south. It’s as much about time away and bonding with my daughter as it is about bargain hunting.
Nevertheless, I go out of my way to spend my money locally. And by locally I mean throughout the West Kootenay be it Rossland, Fruitvale, Castlegar or Nelson.
From my point of view it only makes sense. The reality of the newspaper business is that advertising pays the bills.
So I’d be an idiot if I didn’t support the businesses that help pay my wage. I try, as often as I can, to remind a business that the reason I’m shopping there is because they support my job through their advertising. So the money is actually coming full circle.
Granted I can’t buy from every business that advertises in our paper but I believe any effort helps in the long run.
People might argue that doesn’t always work with the large big box stores where the cash flows to some headquarters in the U.S. or back east.
But on the other hand, those same stores are filled with employees from our community. People who hopefully use some of the money they’ve earned and spend it locally to support other businesses.
And the circle continues.
It doesn’t take much to break that circle and certainly a change in duty exemptions will create a little crack in it.
And while the federal government appears oblivious to the potential damage its rule changes might cause, once again, like many things, it falls back on the shoulders of the average citizen to save the day.
Too often people say the actions of one person will make little difference in the big picture. That excuse is repeated far too often when it comes to mega issues like global warming or government reform or changing society’s views.
In the case of shopping local it couldn’t be further from the truth. For every dollar that stays locally, it’s another brick in the business community’s foundation.
And it’s that foundation that helps us build our homes in such a beautiful part of the world.