How to back local business post-Covid
Want to really support local business? Then don’t ask for a discount, writes Nelson-based Jacquie Walters. As the owner of a business who works with tourism, accommodation, and transport providers, amongst a diverse range of clients from many sectors, we’ve been busy offering some free support to people who’ve seen their businesses turned upside down over […]
Want to really support local business? Then don’t ask for a discount, writes Nelson-based Jacquie Walters.
As the owner of a business who works with tourism, accommodation, and transport providers, amongst a diverse range of clients from many sectors, we’ve been busy offering some free support to people who’ve seen their businesses turned upside down over the past few months.
Throughout the upheaval, and the very real grief these business owners experienced as they saw their hard work and months worth of advance bookings disappear, our hope was that, when they were able to, New Zealanders would get behind local businesses and help provide some much-needed income to those most exposed to the loss of income from overseas visitors.
There have been some really encouraging developments in this space. There has been a proliferation of pages on Facebook inviting businesses to share information about what they offer. Tourism promotion agencies and media have been encouraging New Zealanders to back their backyard with a range of campaigns and profile-raising stories.
Alongside this renewed interest in supporting local business, however, there has been a parallel trend that needs examining.
Many New Zealanders have been expressing the view in online forums that businesses should provide a locals discount. We’ve heard of occasions, that even when businesses are providing a discount incentive because they are in urgent need of sales and bookings, New Zealanders are asking for and expecting further discounts. The view behind these requests seems to be that businesses are ‘creaming it’ under business as usual circumstances because tourists are prepared to pay exorbitant prices that locals just won’t stomach. Their view seems to be that visitor sector businesses will now have to get real about their pricing to survive.
In reality, most businesses that operate in the visitor sector run on a very tight profit margin. They service a wide range of costs from their revenue including wages, leases, equipment maintenance and replacement, fuel, power, DOC concessions, and capital improvements. Their costs aren’t reduced because a customer comes from an hour away as opposed to from overseas. Many rely on a busy peak season that extends through to Easter to provide a buffer for the very lean months from April to October.
Putting pressure on already stressed business owners to discount to the point of unsustainability isn’t supporting local.
We are quick to call on businesses to support charity initiatives and provide their services for free in support of good causes. Many of them do so very willingly. Right now though, they are are the good cause that needs supporting. They are businesses and families that need to get through the hard times, and they can do just that with our goodwill.
A business owner recently told me an encouraging story of a customer who they usually don’t charge because he is being transported by them to do volunteer work. On his last trip he insisted on paying for his trip with the words, “you guys need the income, I’m happy to support you.”
Now that’s backing local.
Jacquie Walters is the owner of Nelson-based WaltersPR. Picture: Kaiteriteri Kayaks