As lockdown has eased over the past few weeks, there has been a lot of talk of the economy. And for every person that says it’s important to get the economy back on track, there will be another who says they don’t care about the economy.
But, here’s the thing, the economy isn’t some big, mythical thing which only affects rich people and politicians. It affects all of us – young, old, rich, poor, employed or unemployed, healthy or unhealthy…
The economy is about jobs and benefits. And it’s even about health. Because without jobs, it stands to reason that more people are going to be unhealthy. Not being in work affects people’s mental health, which often has a knock-on effect to their physical health. Which puts more pressure on the NHS. Which needs money to keep going. But less people are earning and paying taxes…
It all keeps coming back to the economy.
So what can we do to support the economy?
If we have the money, we can shop.
(That doesn’t mean shopping for pointless crap which is bad for the environment and has been produced by companies with questionable practices in the way they treat workers in their supply chain. Like Boohoo suppliers allegedly paying £3.50 an hour to staff.)
There has been much debate and judgement online between people who choose to shop and people who don’t. Everyone makes their own choices and nobody should judge them for it.
But as the coronavirus risk reduces and we inevitably start to need new things – because things break and get worn out and we haven’t been able to shop for months – we should all think about the best way to shop.
Of course, not everyone can afford to take these steps, but if you can, please consider it!
The first and best thing you can do is shop local, with small businesses. That way, you are directly supporting a business owner and their staff – not a whole chain of suppliers stretching across the globe. Money you spend with a local business will largely stay within your local economy. So if you buy a product from a local business, they’ve got more money to spend at other local businesses. That keeps people in your own community in jobs.
If you don’t have small local businesses selling what you are looking for, look for small companies online. You are supporting people in the same way, they’re just not necessarily in your own community. If you find a product from a small business on one of the big selling sites, take note of the actual business name and buy from them directly rather than through the big site. That way, they will get far more of the money themselves.
If you can’t buy from a small business, buy from a high street retailer. Because those chains are employing people in your community. So many high street retailers have gone out of business already during lockdown and the future is far from secure for many others. If those chains are lost, the jobs will go with them.
If you are in good health and not shielding, make the effort to actually go to the high street store, either now or in the near future. Because if you buy from that retailer online, that will help to keep the business afloat, but it won’t help to keep your local store on your local high street afloat. The only thing that will do that is people going into the store and spending money there.
If you value the opportunity to actually look at things, to check the size and the quality of the material, you need to go to shops. Because if you don’t, the shops won’t be there much longer. They will close and the pubs, restaurant and coffee shops won’t be far behind. The jobs will go and we will be left with ghost towns.
During lockdown, we have all become increasingly reliant on ordering stuff online. Of course we have. We’ve had no choice. But before you head straight to Amazon, stop and have a think. Can you buy that item from anywhere else?
Because Amazon and the other giant online retailers are destroying small businesses and they are destroying our high street chains. Amazon has lower costs than high street shops, so it can afford to cut prices. But it isn’t providing jobs in your local community. And it pays very low taxes in the UK, so it isn’t supporting the NHS or education or anything else. So if a book is 50p cheaper on Amazon than it is in Waterstones, why not just buy it in Waterstones?
Right now, the UK economy is on a knife-edge. If we don’t start spending our money on our local high streets, we may wake up to find that there are no shops left and thousands of jobs have been lost. Coronavirus wasn’t our fault, but we can all do our bit to aid the recovery of the economy.
I’m not a qualified economist, but you may be surprised to learn that I am actually a business journalist! I write about this sort of stuff all the time and it influences the way I shop myself.
Do you have any other tips on shopping and supporting the economy?