As much as it pains me to write this, given that I’m penning this editorial a full five weeks before Christmas, it now seems impossible to deny that the holiday season is firmly upon us.
And with the first real snowfall coming last week it’s only a matter of time before this city wakes up one morning to find itself flush with the joyful stress and bustling merriment that characterizes the twelfth, and arguably best, month of the calendar.
Over the past few years, and especially around Christmas time, I have been pleased to see how successful the ‘shop local’ movement has been, especially in Peterborough.
As my co-editor correctly states, in his own editorial space to the right, Peterborough has a unique and vibrant business culture that offers citizens a wide variety of interesting, high quality, and above all affordable goods.
I want to specifically highlight affordability because it seems that this has become the defining marketing characteristic in our post-recession commercial reality.
While local business associations and community groups have been very successful in promoting the idea that people should shop local in order to find high quality products unique from those mass produced goods, there remains embedded in the public consciousness the unfortunate and untrue narrative that shopping local means that you’ll have to either spend more or get less.
There have been many frustrating instances in which I’ve heard friends, students, or community members say that while they would love to do more of their shopping at local businesses, they just can’t afford it.
It’s not hard to see where the equation of big box = affordability originates, nor is it hard understand see why it remains so pervasive.
Multinational chains spend millions upon millions of dollars buying online, print, television, and radio advertising space, all to try to sell the public on the idea that their brand should be associated with the lowest prices.
In reality, however, these elaborate marketing campaigns are actually only selling the myth of low prices. The companies count on this brand association and the customers’ desire for one-stop-shopping to get them through the doors and spending their money.
As for actual affordability and low prices, since when has big box advertising ever told the truth?
In most cases local businesses offer comparable and, in many instances, lower prices than those at big box stores simply because they don’t have the resources to sell the myth of affordability, so they have to actually be affordable in order to stay competitive.
In writing this editorial I was reminded of a story I heard from a local hardware store owner back in my hometown. When asked if he was worried about the new Home Depot that was just built down the road, the owner replied that it was actually the best thing that could have happened to him. “I was able to raise my prices and still be cheaper than that place,” he said.
Shopping local doesn’t just have to be about supporting the community, it can also be about getting the best value for your dollar.
In the past decade or so society has become increasingly skeptical to the marketing ploys of big business. It’s only a matter of time until this myth of affordability is similarly debunked.