Muriel Protzer is a policy analyst for B.C. and Alberta with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business

COLUMN: Avoid the online temptation and buy local

Muriel Protzer is a policy analyst with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business

Nothing says season’s greetings more than a warm chai latte, the smell of peppermint oil in a diffuser, and targeted advertisements.

I’m sure you have noticed the countless ads, each one blaring at the top of its lungs,“The biggest sale you can’t afford to miss!”

And I get it. They’re eye-catching. The adrenaline rush from clicking “order now” is so strong, we often forget to even consider where our money is going (hint: big international corporations).

Shopping online can be addictively convenient, but it hurts local retailers more than you may think.

It’s called showrooming. It’s the act of visiting a local business, getting expert advice from the employees, maybe even snapping a picture so you don’t forget, and intentionally walking away to order the same or similar item online to save a few dollars.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. A recent survey conducted among members of the Angus Reid forum suggests 55 per cent of Canadians admit to showrooming.

My generation is particularly guilty of this, with three out of four shoppers ages 18 to 34 reporting that they showroom. While it may save you a few bucks (or maybe not – sometimes the flashy sale is just a façade, and don’t forget import tariffs, shipping and other hidden fees), it’s having a major impact on local businesses.

Almost two-thirds of independent retailers suspect they have had customers come in to check out an item only to go home and buy it online. Nearly all of those businesses indicate it has affected their sales, with a third saying it’s been significant. Every dollar that ends up with a big online corporation isn’t just leaving our local economy, it’s leaving our community.

Your neighborhood businesses support local jobs, donate to local charities, and sponsor or host local events like a Santa Claus parade or a winter market offering locally made goods.

Local businesses also offer you, the buyer, a much more personalized shopping experience, greater product knowledge, and unique product selection. These things don’t come with a price tag. Increasingly, consumers are trying to get the best of both worlds: Amazon prices with small business’s expertise.

READ MORE: How one B.C. thrift shop is connected to a small island in the Philippines

Those benefits start to disappear the more we buy online. The deals online may be tempting, but instead of waiting for two-to five-day delivery (because who actually pays for same-day shipping?), try exploring the options at your neighborhood’s original same-day-delivery dealers, your independent businesses. When you shop local, your community is better off for it.

Muriel Protzer is a policy analyst for B.C. and Alberta with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business

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