It’s never been more important to shop small. The future of our communities depends on it

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There are 10 cafes within close walking distance from my house. There’s four hairdressing salons, three fish and chips shops, two gift shops, two florists, two pharmacies, an independent supermarket, a bakery, and a long-running toy shop. 

In the small pocket of the regional city where I live, I’m surrounded by small businesses. 

They have become part of my family’s everyday life, and that was particularly the case two years ago when I was on maternity leave. Each day I would walk with my new baby and we would visit these businesses; to have a coffee, eat a meal, buy something we needed or simply just to say hello. Those business owners got to know us and we got to know them, and it created a sense of belonging. 

It’s one of the reasons why a photo of one of them, clearly distressed at the news that Victoria was once again entering lockdown on Thursday night, stopped me in my tracks while scrolling through Instagram yesterday. 

This time it’s different. These lockdowns — in Victoria, in New South Wales, in Queensland — are different. There is no JobKeeper and for some, the financial support on offer is either challenging to apply for or out of reach completely. For those that do secure the grants, they barely touch the sides

Small business owners are exhausted. They’ve adapted and pivoted and pulled out all the stops over the past 18 months simply to keep their heads above water. 

It’s not only the financial losses, as difficult as they are to digest. As Melbourne business owner Phoebe Simmonds recently wrote for SmartCompany, lockdowns also mean the momentum in your business is lost. There is no planning for the future, no moving forward. You are forced to stand still. 

It’s true small businesses are the backbone of the economy, employing millions of Australians and contributing significantly to economic activity. 

But they are also the heartbeat of our communities. 

They sponsor sporting clubs and events. They fundraise for local charities. They team up together when the chips are down. 

Imagine what your local area would look like if there were no small businesses. It’s a heartbreaking thought. I know where I live wouldn’t be the same without these small businesses. 

That’s why now, more than ever before, we all must do everything in our power to help them through the latest lockdowns and beyond. 

The federal government must do more. The state governments must do more. We all must do more. 

I urge you to think about every dollar you are spending right now and make it count. 

Choose to spend it with a local small business, rather than a multinational corporation who doesn’t care where their next dollar comes from. 

Go out of your way to order something from a small business, for yourself or someone you care about. 

Follow your local small businesses on Facebook and Instagram and like their posts. Leave them a comment telling them how much their business means to you. 

How we respond now, in this moment, will have lasting effects on these businesses and our communities. 

As John Winter, chief executive of the Australian Restructuring Insolvency & Turnaround Association, said to me on Twitter last night, “support the businesses you want to be there at the end of all of this”. 

“If you don’t do it now, they won’t be there later.”

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