Buy Local, Buy Ballarat or NOT!
Let me start by saying these views and opinions are purely my own.
I get mail outs from Commerce Ballarat every so often and I can’t help but take notice at the Buy Local, Buy Ballarat emails I’m sent, the whole campaign lead by an organisation that thinks that their members have first dibs on Local trade well I’m writing this to have it said they’re getting it wrong, Jodie Gillett and the crew that do wonders at Commerce Ballarat (majority of the time) have started to dabble once again this year in the argument of supporting local retailers.
Well I’d agree, I’m a local business person myself but I certainly don’t think that I should ever stage an argument against my potential customers suggesting they’re wrong and that they should stop spending elsewhere it makes little sense to me. I have absolutely NO right to expect that I should be the local’s first port of call given the retail landscape I decided to trade in, you know with the internet and all.
First thing I’d suggest to Commerce Ballarat and it’s members is ditch the poorly formed stance and start evolving from their sales heritage, cut the crap essentially!
I’m as passionately against this campaign as Jodie Gillett at Commerce Ballarat is for it… and every un-biased way I look at it my argument stands strong.
Let’s face it, Ballarat traders have been most concerned about their own pockets, which is typically common sense but there is a fine line between common sense and greed, I’d never reasonably expect a business to run at a loss but you can’t expect to push huge mark-ups to the consumer.
What amazes me in Ballarat is the complete lack of will by retailers to differentiate, it means we all end up with a comparable same old same old retail experience with very little risk taking and consequently nothing new for the local shopper.
I’ve been in Ballarat for 3 years and from the day I got here until today I can accurately say that nothing has changed in the way of the Ballarat retailers mentality particularly in small business, however when I compare it to more populated and competitive urban areas there is great change and an ever evolving experience for the consumer, ie Melbourne, Geelong etc.
I could ramble for hours and write pages about my position on this subject but to be concise in my professional business development experience the main contributing factors are quite simply laid out in front of each and every retailer with the following key problems existent as experienced over my time in Ballarat:
- Far too much over valuing on products and services as well as business image.
- A massive lack being consumer centric!
- Staff who lack general manners, etiquette and ability to provide outstanding customer service.
- No point of difference especially no encouragement for the average consumer to feel satisfied if they spend.
- No regard for the ever advancing level of knowledge and whit of the average customer
That’s a very basic and fundamental list of common issues within many businesses but I’ve found in my experiences as a consumer in the Ballarat region that these issues are often significant and I have become far less inclined to shop locally for speciality items because of a consistent number of bad experiences.
Now I’ve given an overview of my position on the subject in question so let me detail a very recent scenario of mine:
I was looking to fit out a house with the basic contents, decor, appliances etc and obviously I’m a smart consumer as are many of the modern consumers these days.
I shopped around locally, for days, itemised EVERY ITEM I was going to purchase from lamps to lamp tables, fridges to washing machines you name it I had it on my list, excluding the national retailers like Kmart, Target and Big W I had managed to come up with a budget based on local retail prices.
I then spent around 1-2 hours researching each product, pricing them, comparing them and generally working out what I could save should I buy online.
I then come up with a maximum budget for each local store, for my example I’ll use Michael’s Furniture in Wendouree, I’d priced what I needed online, as well as in store and set my max budget exactly half way between the difference of Michael’s pricing and the online pricing I had a figure of $1875.00 so I went back to the store and said look I can get all these items at this price online or in Geelong (just the lounge suite was in Geelong) and I’d be most happy to spend locally should they be able to meet me at this figure, long story short they declined and I subsequently made my purchases online and borrowed a ute, travelled to Geelong and got the lounge suite.
Now, this is a very good example of why I can’t and won’t buy local, buy Ballarat. To me it’s an insult to see organisations like Commerce Ballarat making suggestions that locals have a lack of regard for the local economy and local jobs.
Why should I take a hit to my pocket and be insulted like that all because I’m a savvy, smart and educated consumer?
If you could save $590 would you buy online or in another township?
It’s not as if I did not try and buy locally, I did and I also would rather local people to talk to if my lounge suite breaks or needs repairs but there was absolutely no other compelling reason for me to spend my money in Ballarat when I could save like I did.
I would be far more comfortable spending locally for a little more should service be better, should I enjoy my shopping experience or if I had felt as though I was being looked after but again locally that’s not going to happen.
At the end of the day there are dozens of massive national chains who turn over millions of dollars because they offer a point of difference… Look at JB-HIFI for example, they have rock bottom pricing, they’re marketing is appealing to the demographic they serve and they are reliable and their staff work hard for each sale in my experience. This kind of business practice and innovation will rarely be seen amongst your average Ballarat business.
I would openly encourage every local person to start buying elsewhere, don’t lower your expectations on a falsely preached idealistic buy local campaign that I could easily define as propaganda and start demanding more for your money, a better buying experience and a more consumer centric feel to each and every transaction.
That said, if you find a local business that’s ticking all the boxes then get behind them, word of mouth is powerful and well deserved in some (not many) instances around Ballarat.
It’s the best lesson we can teach Commerce Ballarat, it’s members and all the other retailers around Ballarat and it will ultimately benefit you and the rest of us ‘consumers’.