It’s no secret that South Africans harbour unique and impressive talents. From our booming creative industry to our emerging commerce industry, we are starting to see a spike in products that are locally made. The “side hustle” has become a common term among many young students who are starting small businesses that cater to their niche skills. With so many small businesses popping up, and a range of distinctive products to choose from, many South Africans are still opting to spend their money in corporate stores rather than local start-ups. Of course, these spending habits might just boil down to habit and personal preference, but what does this mean for our economy?
Supporting Local: More than just a purchase
Of course, the obvious way in which we can support local stores is to purchase their products. Although this would be a great help, there are a few other factors to consider as well. Firstly, locally-made products are not always tangible. Supporting our local economy includes the creative industry that consists of our artists, filmmakers, and thespians. Watching a local theatre production or seeing a live musical act is just as important as buying handmade jewelry from your favourite local thrift store. Secondly, due to the high costs of raw materials and manufacturers, many locally made products tend to be on the pricier side. I can’t begin to tell you how many items from local clothing brands I have on my shopping list that simply don’t fit into my student budget. If this is the case, another way in which we can support these businesses is simply by raising awareness. Tell a friend, repost their products on your social media, and support any launches or events. Since many businesses and entrepreneurs rely on word-of-mouth advertising, these seemingly insignificant actions are a great benefit to local artists and businesses.
a question of ethics
Over the last few years, we have been seeing a shift in our consumption patterns. Many people are opting to shop sustainably as we are beginning to recognize the harmful effects that overconsumption has on our environment. As I have previously mentioned, however, shopping sustainably is not a viable option for everyone. The reality is that mass retailers sell a variety of products for affordable prices and when it comes down to it, consumers are more likely to choose the cost-effective option. While this may be true, so many small businesses are being pushed out of the market. Even worse, many conglomerates blatantly steal their ideas and pass them off as their own. As consumers, we are confronted by questions of ethics every time we purchase something, whether we are aware of this or not. Yes, it’s extremely easy (and affordable) to buy goods from fast fashion brands such as Shein, but is that worth supporting a retailer that has allegations of exploiting workers and even using child labour to manufacture their products? Sustainable shopping includes conscious shopping. If we are opting for the unsustainable option, one that damages our environment and/or hinders our economy, it’s important to think about who and what we are supporting when we do this.
Apart from stimulating our post-pandemic economy, supporting local businesses usually comes with some added benefits.
- Small businesses usually pride themselves on their customer service because they know how important each customer is for ensuring the longevity of their business. Whenever I’ve purchased something from a local business, my packaging would always come with a thank you note or some other token of appreciation. This touch of personalization is sure to make any consumer feel good, and a happy consumer is sure to return.
- Products are geared towards a niche market that is not usually catered for by conglomerates. They also offer a unique take on existing products. This means that you are likely to find a product that is suited to your specific needs as well as products you didn’t even know you needed.
- By supporting local businesses, you are supporting your community. Small, local businesses offer employment opportunities. Considering South Africa’s ongoing struggle regarding unemployment and job scarcity, these businesses create new avenues of employment for people in their local communities.
Our consumption methods are very personal to us. Where we choose to spend our time and money could be very telling of our values and interests. Although supporting local artists and businesses is a gateway to boosting our economy, consider the personal benefits as well. Let’s be mindful of our purchases and actively try to do our part in supporting our fellow entrepreneurs and artists. Your support could be monetary or simply just hitting the ‘like’ button on their posts. Either way, you’re contributing to a promising time for both the creative and commercial South African industry.