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'It's our duty to buy local during this pandemic'

Lory Kehoe of Trinity College says in order to preserve our economy, consumers in Ireland must choose local first.

Lory Kehoe

Businesses are having to adapt to survive in the midst of the Covid-19 restrictions, and fast. Consumers are also changing habits. Here, at TheJournal.ie, we’ll be bringing you a Voices series called Business Matters, where we discuss the challenges faced by businesses and hear from those adapting to survive. This week, Lory Kehoe of Trinity College says that by supporting local business through this we are also investing in our own futures:

AS WORLD LEADERS scramble to iron out and implement stimulus measures, local businesses are fighting their own battle. While it is incumbent on the government to steady the ship, we as a consumer nation, have a decisive role to play in keeping our local businesses above water.

We must do our bit to support independent retailers as best we can, to ensure their survival for a post-pandemic future – think of it as a grassroots stimulus package. 

We are living through unprecedented and uncertain times, and the lockdown has presented SMEs with critical business continuity challenges. The cafes, bookstores, flower shops, design shops and delis that line our villages and main streets are vital to the fabric of our communities.

They centre community life, contributing to the close-knit feel of our localities and forging a sense of belonging amongst residents. In isolating times such as these, when our worlds have shrunk to fit within a 2-kilometre radius, upholding this solidarity and sense of togetherness is more important than ever. 

Keeping it local

When you purchase at locally owned businesses, more money is kept in the community, paying for piano lessons, school books, and paint jobs on local houses, as opposed to lining distant shareholders’ pockets.

These are the businesses that create summer jobs for local teens, the shops that you feel comfortable having your kids run to for a ’99 in the summer, and who readily offer up hampers and vouchers for GAA club raffles. Having amenities within walking distance from our homes is a luxury we shouldn’t overlook, they are a lifeline for many of our elderly and most vulnerable citizens.

moore-street-markets-dublin-ireland August 29, 2007: Moore Street Markets, Dublin. Source: The Irish Image Collection

For those of us fortunate enough to be able to maintain full-time employment via remote working, the lockdown will likely precipitate a substantial decrease in discretionary spending.

The ESRI estimates that the average household will spend €632 during a pandemic week (including housing costs), compared to €837 in a normal week. So if you have the means, making a concerted effort to spend money locally could save jobs — and help ensure that the village, in its entirety, can reopen when the crisis is over. 

Using the web

Check out your favourite shops on social media and see if they are offering adapted services – many restaurants have redirected efforts into the takeaway space, many wholesalers have pivoted into direct selling, and many independent retailers have ventured into the online world.

Obviously, many people are concerned about their income right now and some are facing job losses, so this is not advisable for all, but it does help that if you can spend right now, you consider where you spend. Here are some helpful ways to change your spending habits:

  • For those of us using Revolut or N26, you can quickly search to see your most frequented stores. Have a think about these – could you move some of your business from chain players to local providers? 

  • Are there any birthdays coming up for which you could purchase gifts or vouchers from Irish craft, sport or clothing shops? 

  • Could you send a voucher for a local restaurant to cheer up a couple who has had their wedding postponed? 

  • Could you order cake and flowers for family members that you can’t be with right now? 

  • What about a nephew or niece who will be missing their first communion or confirmation this year, how about ordering them something from an Irish toy shop? 

  • Or arranging delivery of some Irish-made baby attire in lieu of a cancelled baby shower? 

  • Do you have a watch that needs repairing or a piece of jewellery that would benefit from a rework at a local jeweller? 

  • Why not phone or contact a local deli on social media to see if you can order a package of supplies for an elderly neighbour of yours? 

  • Now that you have more time at home, could you treat yourself to some gardening or DIY supplies from domestic retailers online? 

Revolut for business

Revolut, of the pre-paid debit cards, offers free business account plans that could enable freelancers to seamlessly receive payment for teaching virtual lessons. Why not try out a music or language class with some of your newfound free time?

If you feel financially stretched, why not write a positive online review of your favourite bakery, health store, restaurant, or hairdresser to encourage foot traffic once they reopen.

debit-and-credit-cards-in-poland-03-jan-2020 Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

Despite the globality of the crisis we are faced with, we need to take the steps to ensure that the fallout will not hit hardest on our local communities’ doorsteps. Covid-19 has challenged us to act with solidarity and generously in putting our communities and local economies first. A grassroots stimulus effort could come to represent a silver lining amongst all of the tragedy spawned by this virus. 

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Lory Kehoe is an adjunct assistant professor of Technology Trends, Strategic Management and Information Systems in Trinity College Dublin and is Managing Director and Co-Head of Global Partnerships at ConsenSys.

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