GO GREEN With Black Friday and Christmas just around the corner, Irish consumers are being urged to buy gifts and seasonal goods locally.
Brexit uncertainty and online shopping could cripple local businesses this Christmas
THESE are tough weeks for small businesses across the west of Ireland. Mid-November is traditionally one of the quietest times of the year as consumers reel in their spending and tend to do their upmost to save a few euros ahead of the Christmas rush.
Black Friday, one of the busiest shopping days in the retail calendar, falls on November 29 this year. This day – traditionally the fourth Friday of November (the day after Thanksgiving Day in the US) – now seems to signal the beginning of the run-in to Christmas, and many will be out next week looking for those bargains that seem to be widespread, with every type of business looking to be involved.
Unfortunately, much of Ireland’s Black Friday consumer spend leaves the local economy. In an effort to turn the tide leading Irish retailers and trade organisations have united to appeal to shoppers, reminding them how important it is to support local businesses. Their ‘Green Friday’ drive has been launched to encourage people to shop locally and support Irish brands and businesses this Christmas.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping promotions are now enthusiastically embraced by Irish consumers, with more than €50 million spent over the course of the weekend in 2018. Around €4.65 billion will be spent by Irish shoppers during the Christmas period, based on research by Retail Ireland.
That’s a lot of money, and the more that stays in the Irish economy the better for us all. And now, with Brexit uncertainty and trade tariffs looming, Irish consumers really do need to be reawakened to the significance of buying Irish and shopping local.
The Green Friday initiative is led by Marian O’Gorman, CEO of retail group Kilkenny. It has been championed by trade associations including the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland, Retail Excellence, Chambers Ireland, and by the Small Firms Association (SFA), as well as Irish brands and retail businesses countrywide.
A microsite, goforgreenfriday.com, is providing participating retailers and brands with free downloadable marketing material, and brands and businesses are being encouraged to market their products under the Green Friday banner this Christmas, highlighting the value of shopping locally.
The SFA has released figures that show that if each adult spent just €20 extra in small local businesses this Christmas, it would amount to an injection of over €73 million for small firms. This would have a hugely positive impact on local jobs and the vibrancy of town and village centres.
Small businesses too have become aware that they must be able to offer value for money in light of the fact that so many consumers now do a large amount of their shopping online. Local businesses have had to become smarter in the way they communicate with the public and also in the ways they source their products – the cheaper the source the better, as this saving can then in turn be passed on to the consumer.
Reverse the decline
As the country continues to recover from the 2008 economic crash, many start-ups have popped up in towns across the county over the last number of years, while more-established small businesses have expanded.
However, as if to remind us of the fragility of local economies, many of our town centres are still pockmarked by idle premises. Many old, traditional businesses, such as butchers, bakeries and public houses, have gone under due to changes in consumer behaviour. The blunt fact is that this attrition will continue unless a concerted effort is made by the public to shop local.
Larger online retail giants pose a significant threat to the future of many of our towns. While online shopping is a useful resource for many buyers, we would do well to place more value on the quality, traceability and value-for-money of our own Irish products. By supporting local businesses you are helping to keep the local economy vibrant and helping many families to work and live in our county. Do the right thing over the next few weeks, and shop local.