Why it’s more important than ever to Go Local First this Christmas

christmas trading

Pru Goward, former MP and ambassador for the Go Local First campaign.

Christmas trading is peak time for SMEs, during which many make most of their annual sales. With trading disruptions caused by bushfires and extended lockdowns, it’s more important than ever for the public to shop locally, says Pru Goward, former MP and ambassador for the Go Local First campaign initiated by the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA).

“Many businesses will tell you that it’s Christmas that determines whether they live or die the next year, so it is critical to support local businesses in the big spending period of Christmas,” she says.

According to Go Local First Consumer Research, more than two thirds of Australians (64%) are more likely to spend with small local businesses over the next month. That figure rises to 73% for those who have seen the Go Local First campaign messaging.

SmartCompany spoke with two small businesses to gauge how important this year’s Christmas trading will be for them.

When shopping this Christmas and New Year, choose to shop with your local small businesses. They were there for us during lockdowns and now’s our chance to give back and send them into 2021 on a high. Supporting local small businesses means supporting local jobs and your local community. Go Local First today!

Scoops and Candy, Lismore, NSW

Felicity Hyde started her local sweets shop Scoops and Candy in February — right before the pandemic hit. Although she quickly pivoted to offer online sales, this year has been tough. 

Hyde stocks ice creams and classic lollies (think pineapples and red frogs) but specialises in imported candies and treats from the US and Canada. Her customers are a mix of over-40s who miss the nostalgia of buying lollies at their local milk bar, and kids who see cool stuff on social media (Hyde regularly posts videos on TikTok) and ask their parents to buy it for them.

Hyde says Christmas trade has already begun, and will be a huge relief to make up for lost income in 2020.

“People are coming in and recognising that Christmas is coming, and they want some stocking stuffers,” she says. “It’s been quite mind blowing to see, and I think Christmas is going to be our peak time.”

Shopping local is vital to maintaining a vibrant community, says Hyde, who registered to be part of the Go Local First campaign through Lismore Chamber of Commerce. She says other businesses in her area are reporting increased sales and foot traffic, and there’s a positive attitude among her business networks.

Grassroots marketing is a key feature of the Go Local First campaign, says Goward, who has been rallying local councils, MPs and businesses to create regional online directories, amplify social media and engage local influencers (including personalities but also organisations such as schools and football clubs with an engaged following) to promote shopping local.

“The research has been very powerful in telling us what we need to do,” says Goward. “If you can see the local football club captain saying, ‘Thank you to small local business this year. They’ve donated our trophies and donated the petrol money so we could get to our matches. They’re doing it tough, and it’s time we supported them.’ You think, ‘Yeah, yeah, of course.’”

The Face Paint Shop, Melbourne, Victoria

Michelle Drinnan has built up her business The Face Paint Shop from a small distribution company operating from a garage to a thriving shopfront in Melbourne and online store offering high quality face painting products. 

Her clients are Australia-wide (with 10% international) and include theatre companies, schools and kindergartens, cosplay fans, event entertainers and parents.

Her sales are seasonal, and Christmas will deliver a huge chunk of her annual sales.

“For us, Halloween and Christmas are the busiest times,” says Drinnan. “A huge amount of retail stores bring in most of their profit in the last three months of the year, and we’re the same.

“There’s lots of Christmas parties and celebrations that might either hire a face painter, or having a Christmas party that you might use face paint yourself. And face paints are a really cool gift because it’s artistic.”

Drinnan says she was lucky to have a solid customer base to continue delivering products through both Melbourne lockdowns, but it was tough as she did not qualify for government assistance. She has seen many businesses close, so is passionate about Australians supporting small businesses and the proliferation of campaigns such as Go Local First.

“It’s more necessary than ever,” she says. “Small businesses are the ones that had the most amount of trouble getting through this period. 

“When you support a small business, you’re helping them pay their rent, pay their bills, pay for their kids’ lunches.”

The Go Local First research reveals almost two in five people will spend less

this Christmas — not necessarily surprising given Australia’s economic climate and uncertainty regarding COVID-19. But those who will spend more are more likely to shop locally.

“Consumer confidence in the last couple of weeks has jumped back,” Goward says. “With the vaccine coming, people have become more confident about the future, and let’s hope they spend it at Christmas.”

NOW READ: Two hospitality businesses on why you have to Go Local First to survive and grow

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Go Local First

The Go Local First campaign is funded by the Federal Government and delivered by the Council of Small business Organisations Australia (COSBOA) on behalf of small businesses everywhere. COSBOA is Australia’s peak body exclusively representing the interests of small business. The Go Local First campaign encourages consumers to buy products and services from small businesses so our local communities and economies thrive.

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