2020 has been a challenging and transformative year. As an independent freelance designer, I have been grateful for the financial support of the Canadian government to help bridge the gap in income as clients adjust to new and evolving economic realities. And as an artist and maker, I am thankful for the people who continue to support my art practice through likes, shares, comments, commissions, and sales though my online shop and Etsy store. Right now, it could not be more important to support local business.
Every purchase you make is a choice, and in 2020, we seem to have more choice than ever. With the freedom of online shopping, you can now have exactly what you want, delivered to your doorstep, sometimes even in the same day.
But discounted prices and unprecedented convenience come at a great cost, and we must no longer turn a blind eye to these hidden consequences. Multinational mega-corporations like Amazon, Walmart and Costco threaten to crush small businesses because of the power we have given to them through our seemingly innocuous purchasing.
Take Amazon as an example. It is notorious for its deplorable working conditions and unfair wages for its warehouse employees, ongoing lawsuits, tax evasion, and the cumulative effect that their shipping model has on our environment is catastrophic. Yet, it has soared into a new level of market dominance since the onset of the global pandemic. Amazon now has a market cap over $1.14 trillion. Its CEO Jeff Bezos, is the wealthiest human on the planet, with a net worth over $204.6 billion (Forbes, August 2020). He makes $215 million in one day. He makes more money in one minute than what his warehouse workers make in one year. (Sidenote: one million seconds is 11 days, one billion seconds is 32 years, one trillion seconds is 31709 years.) Think about what Amazon will be worth after the pandemic. This level of wealth hoarding is dangerous and unsustainable.
Corporations like Amazon rely on your complacency. Amazon’s revenues are nearly incomprehensible, and it and its peers can use their scale to intimidate and stifle competition. It may feel hopeless, but the purchasing choices you make have power. Like a single voice in a protest, or an individual ballot in an election, your actions contribute to direct, cumulative change.
Moving into this holiday season - the bread and butter for so many small businesses - you have choice. Not just in what products and services you buy, but which businesses you support. Please make a commitment to support local as often as possible, even if it costs a few more cents than Amazon.
If you are in a position to purchase gifts this year, here are some things you can do today, tomorrow, and every day:
- Talk about these issues with friends and family (share this post!)
- Research to find out what is available locally. Then, work your way outwards to support neighbouring communities.
- Share what you like. Word of mouth is magic for small business.
- Ask for what you are looking for. Small businesses want to help other small businesses.
- Consider making purchases earlier this year (to prevent creating backlogs in the post system this December), and grouping and sharing your shipping when possible.
- Pay it forward. Rate high, refer often, and tip generously.
Be kind, stay safe, and help each other. Thanks!