Local purchasing has been high on the agenda during lockdown, the challenge is how can we make sure it remains as the economy reopens and we get back to whatever the new normal will be. This will require us as individuals and businesses to adopt a positive and – dare I say it – positive discriminatory approach to buying local when tendering for any service, whether it be accountancy, legal or PR and marketing.
The same should apply when sourcing physical goods. Not every town or county will have a metaphorical widget manufacturer, but there will inevitably be a number of links in every supply chain within easy reach than you could call upon, such as packaging or logistics.
Why, when looking for professional services, do companies across the South East gravitate to buying “London, not local”? Is it because the capital is simply the best, or does it, like Stella Artois, have that reassuringly expensive tag.
A number of regional professional practices have done well from serving the two markets – capital and local – but they are in the minority.
After 25 years in business, and as director of Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, I know first-hand there are many amazing world class businesses and organisations that are more than able to support our local needs and international customers. While being outward-looking and not adopting a little islander/flat earth mentality, we should be more open to considering local suppliers who can help support our national and international growth.
In simplistic terms it’s a case of 2+2 = 5. Buying from a local company means they are more likely to grow, employ and train more people and give them the skills to generate further growth. And that then supports the local economy. Success breeds success.
The “local first” approach needs to be top-down and bottom-up. As well as buying local, there are many organisations – councils, public-private sector partnerships – each committed to promoting their respective local economies. How many of them have a buy local policy in place? The answer is not enough of them and, like businesses, they too often head to London to buy services, rather than spend locally.
Each organisation needs to engage with their respective local business community, and that’s often where it all goes wrong, especially at the moment with every business owner under unprecedented pressure. Unfortunately, the public and private sector rarely speak the same language.
Each business-facing organisation needs to work out how best to engage with their respective local business community, especially as we are all searching for the quickest route to recovery.
We need a new conversation and where better to start than locally and here in South East Business.
Andre Metcalf, director, Maxim PR & Marketing Ltd - Twitter: @Maxim_PR