The Keep It Local campaign was launched almost two years ago now to raise awareness of the need to support our local economies and acknowledge those businesses at the heart of our communities.
Now as we emerge out the other end of the pandemic, it is abundantly apparent that the landscape will never look as it did before. That need not be a bad thing, quite the opposite in fact. Many of the changes in life will have been for the better, including the way we have grown to appreciate the contribution of local businesses to keeping the economy running and communities active.
Following all the grief and loss there must be lessons learned. Things we took for granted we have learned to appreciate and admire. The magnificence of the NHS, the commitment of our carers, bin men, public transport workers, lorry drivers, shop floor workers…the list goes on. All of them played a huge part in creating a more united country with a willingness to help and care for each other.
Of course, they are not alone. Behind the scenes there are many other businesses critical to our economy that have had to either be put on hold or adapt their offering to work within new guidelines, keeping the economy ticking over, servicing the local community.
Arguably we are one of those businesses, at the heart of the Keep It Local campaign.
We are part of a group of stationers and office products dealers who have experienced the welcome move towards buying from local businesses during the recent pandemic. Our mission is to keep that trend going as the economy starts up again by encouraging large businesses and government organisations to actively strive to use more local companies for their stationery, office supplies and other purchases.
The Keep It Local campaign was inspired by the government’s outlined plan that by 2022 one third of its spend on goods and services will be with Small and Medium-sized Enterprises. A lot has gone on in the world since that declaration, but we feel that must remain a focus for the government and more should be done to support local businesses and enable them to compete on a level playing field.
The idea of buying local has been gathering momentum in recent years, but with the Covid-19 outbreak the landscape changed suddenly and dramatically. Many retail businesses had to completely shut down; yet still they adapted their ways to service the community with local drop-offs, safe pick-up points, newly built websites to communicate ordering processes, taking orders over social media – They adapted to survive, and in doing so, these shops became the lifeblood of the local community.
Other businesses that were still permitted to operate, albeit with restricted travel and furloughed staff, carried on adapting the way they operated with skeleton teams; sourcing and supplying huge amounts of PPE equipment for NHS accounts, general practitioners, care homes and pharmacies; offering local businesses support with social distancing products and advice to help the country to get back to business. All products and services that were alien to them just a couple of years ago.
Today we face many new challenges, and it is important that the spirit of Keep It Local stays alive. Earlier this year businesses were encouraged to download a letter from the www.keep-it-local.co.uk website and send it to their own MP, nearly 200 letters were downloaded and used to get parliamentary members backing the campaign. Campaign organisers openly wrote to both Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, but with so many distractions around the world they have decided it cannot keep waiting for a government response. Local businesses need action now.
With costs of living rising steeply, households and businesses are under increasing pressure to survive. A bustling community with high employment and occupied high streets gives everyone a mental and financial lift as we look to recover from the pandemic – only by raising the awareness on a national level can we ensure that the benefits are felt in all areas.
The campaign is now upping the ante to obtain increased support from those in a position to influence. We believe there should be a financial incentive for somebody to order from their local distributor rather than defaulting to Amazon, we want households to visit their local stationer, butcher, greengrocer and baker rather than instinctively visiting the out-of-town multinational supermarket and we want businesses to consider the local environment and community when choosing a provider. We believe local and national administrations could be doing more to encourage those actions.
Please show your support to local businesses and get behind the campaign. More information on the benefits of supporting local businesses and how to get involved can be found at www.keep-it-local.co.uk.