Why we should buy local

By: Hyacinth Tagupa - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | December 11,2020 - 10:07 AM

One of the many lessons to pick up during this “new normal” is the value of buying from local sellers whenever feasible.

A major reason, of course, is that this is a concrete way to put our bayanihan spirit into action. The COVID-19 pandemic has put 27.3 million Filipinos out of work, according to an SWS survey. Many of those who lost their jobs now try to make a living through online selling, home delivery services, and internet gigs.

It’s our neighbors and ka-barangays who are now getting their lifeline via these trades. Supporting their businesses is a way to help keep our community afloat during these trying times.

And it’s a boon for us consumers, too. We Pinoy shoppers put such a premium on big-box stores and imported brands especially during the holiday season, and we love rushing with the crowds during mall sales. But we now have many more options that are closer, more accessible, and more comfortable to deal with due to our shared locality.

On Facebook, small shops and individual sellers are typically just a message away. (They’re on Facebook Marketplace and in FB groups, or have their own FB pages.) Purchasing from them usually entails a casual conversation in the vernacular, sometimes with a little chitchat thrown in. You can ask a dozen questions about the product, discuss your specific needs, adjust terms, and give feedback. It’s almost like buying from the sari-sari store down the block.

The same can be said of local service-based businesses such as food and grocery delivery, errand-running, and meal preparation, as well as online services like internet marketing and virtual tutoring. Dealing with service businesses from your own community can be more straightforward because of the ease of communication and their familiarity with your locale.

When shopping local is this easy, there is no reason for us to keep skipping over these homegrown businesses in favor of foreign ones.

Beyond benefits for sellers and consumers, there are larger-scale advantages in patronizing local businesses. It helps boost the local economy. It promotes a climate of competence via healthy competition. It’s more environmentally friendly (in most cases), as it minimizes fuel emissions from shipping and cold storage, and reduces waste from heavy packaging. Think of all the bubble-wrap and styrofoam that gets packed in every “Shipped From Overseas” order, whereas small businesses nearby only need to use paper bags and boxes.

The holidays are a great time to start trying the “shop local” philosophy. For starters, our Noche Buena could be sourced from neighborhood kitchens, food processors, and bakeshops. Food preparation is one of the trades that have surged during the pandemic, with many Pinoys turning to their know-how in cooking, baking, and food preservation to eke out an income. For us consumers, this means we don’t have to look far to find festive dishes and desserts.

Local farms could greatly use our support as well. Filipino farmers and fisherfolk have been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic’s transport restrictions and bagsakan closures, compounded by new importation rules that have been devastating to domestic food producers. This year, we saw agricultural surpluses that heartbreakingly went to waste. If we can’t purchase directly from farms, the least we can do is to shop at our neighborhood market instead of opting for imported produce.

As for gift-shopping, our neighborhood craftsmen, builders, and artists should now have our attention. Since the start of lockdowns, there has been a noticeable increase in artists and carpenters who try to reach more customers via social media. Some have entered barter groups, offering their services in exchange for basic necessities. Many of them are excellent at their craft, too, and despite some ill-informed presumptions, Filipino artists generally charge a reasonable fee. (No, those watercolor portraits and handcrafted bags are not “just a hobby” for them. They’re their livelihood.)

Of course, underhanded seller practices such as overpricing and scams are something to be cautious about. But these occur in any marketplace, not just in our domestic ones uniquely. And one more perk when buying local: You and the supplier likely share a sense of community, a kind of open kinship that you won’t experience with a faceless company on a shopping app.

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TAGS: bayanihan, COVID-19, delivery services, Facebook, internet gigs, local sellers, new normal, online selling, patronizing local, shop local, shopping local

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