“Think globally, act locally.”
At least, that’s how the saying goes. Long have governments implored their people to favour all things local over the international, and not much has changed. The idea of a “home grown” product continues to drive local political and economic arenas, and, with the current state of the Rand, more and more consumers are opting for locally-sourced products.
But what does our inclination towards local products have to say about us as consumers? The benefits of buying locally are not just price driven. There are a number of factors involved. For one thing, aside from the issue of price, there is a fundamental need for us to cling to the idea of ‘the traditional’ in the spirit of community.
With this in mind, here are some disadvantages of buying internationally, and the benefits of buying locally:
The Disadvantages of Buying Internationally
There are some risks involved when you purchase products offshore. Those aware of the ever-increasing urge to reduce our carbon footprint will know that buying internationally places some strain on the environment. Furthermore, people are starting to see the importance of knowing where exactly their desired products are manufactured, and under what conditions.
It is essential that buyers always understand the workings of international trade. Even though the prices of South African products have increased several times in recent years, they often still come in less than international prices.
There may be international regulations that your purchases could be subject to, which will undoubtedly affect your timelines. Add to this the issue of currency exchange when trading at an international level, and it is clear that there are many (often complicated) factors to consider.
The Advantages of Buying Local
There are a number of reasons why buying local products is and should be encouraged. The main advantages have to do with the products themselves, access to support and, of course, price.
Local products will have been designed with the local market in mind. In other words, “by locals, for locals”.
Buying local products isn’t necessarily about subscribing to any particular ideology. For many people it’s about knowing and understanding where the products come from and maintaining positive relationships between the supplier and the consumer. Locally sourced products are usually of higher quality with the added benefit of quicker delivery.
A recent study done by the Open University (2012) suggested that consumers preferred buying local products because manufacturers are committed to producing the best quality products and were focused on small-scale manufacturing. In these instances, it’s likely that smaller production lines
result in products that required more technique, knowledge and skills – a preference among many of the participants. Overall, the researchers found that because the products weren’t mass-produced, they were a lot more appealing to the participants. This led to greater trust in the product and its quality, and in turn, greater trust in the supplier.
The same can be said for the software industry, for example. Internationally produced software is generally made for mass consumption, so you get “what’s in the box” and that’s it. On the other hand, software produced locally is done with South Africans and their challenges in mind. Our
requirements aren’t necessarily as general as international ones. Also, buying locally means you don’t have to pay out of your ears for something just because it has a million features that aren’t relevant to our local requirements. It’s far more likely that a locally-produced product can have a more personal touch, and can be customised to your needs.
Customer support needs to be easily accessible for it to be beneficial to consumers. By buying locally-made and locally-distributed products, you’re ensured good on-site support if you require product maintenance. There are many benefits of on-site support. For example, access to an on-site technician removes the frustration of having to navigate call-centres, it helps build relationships, and the experts can personally demonstrate what you can do to avoid further difficulties. You can also source the product right back to the manufacturer if need be, meaning that you won’t be stuck with a faulty product and no way to fix it.
Buying local will also mean that you have access to local prices. As a consumer you won’t be subject to the ever-fluctuating exchange rate. Concerned about our economy? Money spent on local products in local businesses stays within our economy for longer, and so local traders are more inclined to spend that income with other local businesses, especially for services like accounting, business software and advertising. Not to mention that your purchases help strengthen the local economy and create job opportunities.
What’s more, support of local businesses increases the likelihood that they will uplift their community through charitable donations. Businesses who buy locally as part of their mission statement can also improve their corporate image.
Sourcing products locally is far more than a feel-good matter. Local purchases are said to be twice as effective in keeping the local economy thriving. The potential economic impact of keeping our Rands on our shores is significant, as our community and economy depends on it.