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Buying local in 100 Mile costs less for residents: study

Hidden costs for out-of-town shopping
Canadian money. (Stock photo)

Contrary to popular belief, it does not save consumers money to shop out of town. In fact, it costs more.

That’s the result of a study commissioned by the District of 100 Mile House to explore the true costs of shopping locally versus shopping in larger centres.

Based on information collected in the Shopping Preferences and Business Opportunity Survey, the Basket of Goods Project priced out a specific list of commonly purchased items in 100 Mile House, Williams Lake and Kamloops. The list included 38 items - primarily grocery and household goods - that they purchased in each of these communities, matching brands and quantity to ensure as accurate a comparison as possible.

On the surface, the total price of those goods purchased locally was 19 per cent higher than it was in Kamloops and 6.2 per cent higher than in Williams Lake. But the study went a step further and calculated into the equation the cost of fuel, food, impulse buying and time.

These are true additional costs, the study pointed out.

“Indeed, trip spending on fuel, meals and impulse purchases need to be considered. Whether it is a quick stop for a cup of coffee or perhaps a meal or two, fuel consumption and any additional purchases when you are out of town, these expenses decrease any savings that might have been realized from shopping at home,” said a statement by the district releasing the results of the study.

A return trip to Williams Lake from 100 Mile is 188 kilometres and to Kamloops, 390 kilometres. Fuel use varies depending on the vehicle but with fuel at $1.79.9, travel to Williams Lake will cost between $25 and $88, while travel to Kamloops will cost between $52 and $183, the study found.

As an example, the study said the cost of a $500 purchase may at first glance be 20 per cent less at the Costco in Kamloops than it is in 100 Mile - or a $100 savings. But the true cost should include $52 in fuel for a small fuel-efficient car, $24 for a fast food lunch for two and $50 in impulse purchases - or $26 more than buying locally. That doesn’t include the cost of additional time for travelling out of town, the study pointed out.

It recognized that not all households will fit within the examples given but found cost savings are marginal at best.

Donna Barnett, president of the South Cariboo Chamber of Commerce, said other things should also be considered when making the decision to shop out of town.

“What people don’t realize is most places match prices,” she said. “Some places can’t because they’re small businesses and they pay a heck of a lot more than Costco and Walmart and those places.”

But when it comes time to donate to sports and other events in the municipality, it is the town’s small business owners who do their best to support them financially and in any other way they can, she said.

“If we lose our small businesses, when somebody needs a donation for something, they won’t be there.”

Barnett said she realizes not everything can be purchased locally but if you go into these stores and let them know what you are looking for they can usually bring it in.

Small businesses have been hit hard over the last few years and in many cases are still recovering from the pandemic, Barnett added. Multiple new taxes, new rules and regulations make owning a small business difficult at best.

The study concludes by saying that many shopping habits changed permanently following the pandemic. Recent inflation is further changing how and where people shop and many are becoming more analytical of their spending.

“Shopping habits and items purchased will vary, but we hope this ‘basket of goods’ exercise encourages residents to evaluate their spending habits closely and determine if it’s really worth travelling out of town,” said a news release from the district.

Barnett said she has been fighting the “shop local” battle since she moved to 100 Mile House in 1967. Small businesses are the backbone that communities are built around “and if we do not support them, we will not have them.”

Fiona Grisswell

About the Author: Fiona Grisswell

I graduated from the Writing and New Media Program at the College of New Caledonia in Prince George in 2004.
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