Consumers want to shop locally

While Okanaganites want to shop locally, it seems higher prices, lack of selection and not being able to find what they need are stopping them.

Shoppers browse through the items for sale at some of the stores in the Cherry Lane Shopping Centre. A recent survey suggest consumers want to buy locally but a few factors are holding them back.

Shoppers browse through the items for sale at some of the stores in the Cherry Lane Shopping Centre. A recent survey suggest consumers want to buy locally but a few factors are holding them back.

While Okanaganites want to shop locally, it seems higher prices, lack of selection and not being able to find what they need are stopping them.

A survey conducted by Our Okanagan focused on shopping local with the intent of gaining a better understanding about the challenges facing consumers, businesses and not-for-profits in the valley when sourcing local products and service.

“We noticed that there is a pretty big gap between businesses and consumers and not purchasing locally. So we conducted a survey that confirmed our suspicion that the challenge for people is they don’t know where to get information about what is available locally,” said Brad Clements, part of the project team. “The positive impact of shopping locally is well documented and is an important driver of a region’s economy … this information can provide insight into how businesses can better connect with the local market.”

The survey was sent out in the summer to 1,400 business, consumer and non-profit organizations with profiles registered on ourokanagan.ca. It was also sent to chambers of commerce, regional districts, cities, villages and social media contacts. A total of 579 online surveys were completed, 44 per cent of those coming from the South Okanagan.

Awareness of where to source local products and services was the largest barrier for most consumers, with 50.9 per cent saying it is only somewhat easy to find locally produced products and services. Respondents indicated that there isn’t an easy way to find out what is available locally. They rely mostly on word of mouth, local advertising or general Internet searches to learn what is available. Clements said this suggests that local businesses need to advertise in local media that reach their target market and ensure they have a strong web presence if they wish to be picked up in the search process.

The website, ourokanagan.ca, is just one avenue businesses can put their information out to consumers. Our Okanagan is a non-profit collaboration between Community Futures, Okanagan Partnership, OSTEC, chambers of commerce and the economic development community. They noticed many organizations are sourcing products and services outside of the valley that could be sourced locally.

After brainstorming ideas on how to connect businesses and individuals to local suppliers of products and services, ourokanagan.ca was developed. Clements said currently they are receiving 700 to 1,000 hits per week but expect that to grow when they unveil the updated website in late October or early November.

“It will have a lot more features for businesses and individual consumers. It will allow consumers to tailor what type of information they will get from local companies including sales, products, new services or events. We want to get exposure to this website to get businesses to continue to register and we need consumers going there so they can see all the great things we have here in the valley, because it is incredible,” said Clements.

Other survey results suggested (52.8 per cent) price is the motivating factor for not buying locally, followed by hard-to-find local products and services (45.2 per cent), lack of selection (38.4 per cent) and quality of local products and services (13 per cent). The site ourokanagan.ca is an online tool to businesses in the valley, that is free until January 2012.