By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
Around 45 companies yesterday joined forces in a bid to drive "behavioural change" among Bahamian consumers and help preserve up to 25,000 jobs heading into the Christmas shopping season.
Unveiling the ShopLocal campaign, an initiative created by The Bahamas Federation of Retailers (BFR), merchants and other backers said the economic devastation inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic had made it even more vital for Bahamians to ensure the survival of local businesses and jobs by patronising them over the next six weeks.
The ten-week campaign, which launched yesterday and is sponsored by the Mall at Marathon, Nassau Cruise Port, Southwest Plaza, A.I.D, Furniture Plus, the Graham Thompson law firm and The Bahamas Light Industries Development Council (BLIDC), said the retail, wholesale and manufacturing sector's rebound "relies heavily on a behavioural shift" by consumers.
"Now, more than ever, we need everyone to consider the financial impact and consequences of every shopping choice," said Alannah van Onselen, the Federation's ShopLocal director and president of Bahama Hand Prints. "I cannot think of a more important initiative to support. Our local economy depends on it.
"As a local manufacturer, our success as a company and all the jobs it supports relies on Bahamians taking pride and supporting all that is Bahamian. We hope this important initiative will help to change consumers' hearts, minds and shopping behaviours to strengthen local businesses, our economy and our collective standard of living."
The ShopLocal initiative will likely be aided, at least in part, by the reluctance of Bahamians and residents to travel abroad to shop in Florida and other US destinations where they may be exposed to COVID-19. Travel restrictions, border closures and the general uncertainty created by the pandemic, together with the loss of jobs and incomes, will also discourage travel by locals - as the Government is also attempting to do.
However, online shopping remains attractive and will likely present local merchants with their stiffest competition this Christmas. To combat this, the ShopLocal initiative will feature radio ads, billboards, social media marketing, and newspaper ads designed to educate local consumers about the direct connection between their purchase decisions, jobs and the Bahamian economy's health.
"In this economic environment, consumers are rightfully careful about every dollar they spend, but they often assume that shopping abroad brings greater savings, and that is not always true," said Elizabeth Ramsay, Nassau Tile's managing director, urging Bahamians to keep money in their local economy.
"The landed cost of imported goods can often be higher than the cost of goods available locally. In addition, the added value of seeing and touching the product in person and having quick access to it once purchased are further incentives to shop local rather than abroad - not to mention it facilitates ease of exchanges and, depending on the item, the ability to utilise product warranties which you would otherwise relinquish by shopping abroad."
Ms van Onselen added: "Our economic success and sustainability as a country is enhanced when we support the local economy. Now more than ever, in light of the devastating impacts of COVID-19.
“The importance of spending dollars at home makes a tremendously positive impact on to employment and their livelihoods. When local consumers shop local, they help to support thousands of existing local jobs and create new ones to build the economy by retaining monies within the community versus these funds going to a faraway corporation, and they grow entrepreneurship, innovation and diversity in the local economy.”
Carla Moss-Fitzgerald, marketing director at the Mall at Marathon, said: “Brick and mortar stores traditionally have been dwindling. Their strength has been dwindling due to a lot more people becoming more social with technology and so they're shopping online.”
“But what we have found at the Mall at Marathon is that a number of the people tend to shop online. They don't realise the overall cost of it. They're saying: 'Oh, I see it online, and it's $499. Why is it $1,500 here?' Well, of course, then you have to factor in the duties and the shipping costs and all of that into it.
"And so therefore, there are a lot of things that you're not considering. You're comparing apples with oranges. So we want to - through this campaign - let people know that the prices in the shops are fair. The job you save may be your own.”
ShopLocal participating merchants include A.I.D., Bahama Handprints, Bahamas Supply Agencies, Bahamas Supply Air Conditioning, Bijoux Terner, Blanco Chemicals, Brass & Leather, Caribbean Bottling Company, Carpet World, CBS Bahamas, Clarks, Coin of the Realm, Cole's of Nassau, Custom Computers, Cycles Unlimited, Dollar Plus, Furniture Plus, Jimmy's Liquor Store, John Bull, John Watling's, John's Shoes, Jolly Roger, Kelly's House & Home, Kelly's Lumber, Liquid Courage, Maison Décor, Master Technicians, Morley for Men, Nassau Tile, Paint Suppliers, Pandora, Relish Socks, Rip Curl, Rubins, Sabrina Boutique, Seventeen Shop, Shayne's, The Athlete's Foot, The Perfume Bar, The Sign Man, The Sports Centre, The Shoe Village and Young's Fine Wine.