The Corona Christmas: Why shopping locally makes sense
One of the unexpected consequences of the Corona-19 pandemic is that it has put many people back in touch with their local communities again. Not just in Gibraltar but pretty much everywhere else too. That is not to say that Gibraltar has no community spirit. Llanitos are well known for the warmth of their hospitality and keeping an eye out for each other. That is one of the reasons why Gibraltar is such a safe and enjoyable place to live.
The lockdown forced many people to abandon their offices and work from home. Many local businesses were forced by the Government to close temporarily for several weeks on public health grounds. For many this meant that they had more spare time. New hobbies were taken up and new exercise routines were implemented. The increase in walkers, runners and cyclists going around the Rock or up the Rock was an impressive sight to see.
Locals who had not ventured out by foot or bicyle for years were delighted at re-experiencing the varied and rich nature of the Upper Rock. Many improvements in the infrastructure to the Nature Reserve have been made over the last ten years or so. These include the Med Steps, Charles V Wall and Ape’s Den as well as new attractions such as the Windsor Suspension Bridge and the Skywalk. Another great improvement is that there has been much better management of the paths and trails on the Upper Rock. Many of these have now been opened up by clearing away some of the vegetation which blocked access.
The recent trails announced by the Government have added to the experience but if you want a guide, contact www.walktherock4free.com and let them give you your own personalised tour. As so many visitors have found, the value of local knowledge makes all the difference and will enrich your tour immeasurably.
If you are feeling a bit more adventurous, instead of walking you could try out a new e-bike. https://ebike-gibraltar.com offers guided tours to locals and visitors alike. It’s quicker than walking and the battery operated bike will make climbing to the top of the Rock to grab those stunning views across the Straits seem effortless.
KEEPING IT LOCAL
Another aspect of the lockdown is that many residents rediscovered what it means to do more of their shopping locally. Morrisons and Eroski have long been the destination stores for many local families for the weekly grocery shop. But the lockdown put a temporary stop on the Friday exodus to Spain for the weekend where many Gibraltar residents would escape to their second homes across the border. Whilst there, they would stock up at Mercadona, Carrefour or Supercor. The custom of eating out at a local venta, bar or restaurant also went by the wayside during the lockdown.
Even once the lockdown was lifted people remained cautious and many opted to remain in Gibraltar and eat out at local restaurants. Having been closed for several months the support of local customers was very welcome. The Chamber and the GFSB teamed up with the Government to launch a www.keepitlocal.gi campaign to encourage people to do their shopping in Gibraltar. The message was simple: supporting local businesses by doing your shopping on the Rock keeps those businesses trading which in turn keeps people employed, which in turn enables them to pay taxes and social insurance to the Government. These taxes enable the Government to pay for the health service, the schools and all the other essential services which the local population enjoys. If people spend their money elsewhere then the Government’s ability to pay for all these services is diminished as local businesses lose out.
Gibraltar’s retail and wholesale sectors employ over 5,500 people directly and many more besides indirectly. These businesses buy a lot from other businesses locally and many of the wages which they pay their employees is spent locally. This in turn generates additional economic activity including taxes paid to the Government which are used to pay for the civil service, the police, customs and the fire service. Each of these are necessary to keep the local economy moving forwards.
Of course, people are free to spend their money however they wish and wherever they wish. There are also the comments from some quarters than many goods are not available in Gibraltar or that they are much more expensive that elsewhere, particularly online. There is a degree of truth in this but many local retailers have learnt that they need to keep their prices competitive, especially with products sold online. If not, then they just lose customers. And as we have all seen over the last six months, customers, particularly tourists and other visitors have been in very short supply.
If everyone decided to do their shopping in Spain or just online then Gibraltar’s retail and wholesale sectors would shrink. Over time they would employ fewer people which would mean less tax being paid to the Government. With fewer taxes the Government would have to make decisions about which investments in public services – health, education, law enforcement and soforth were really necessary. Individual decisions about what to buy and where to shop ultimately have a bearing on what the Government can afford. It is all connected.
So, as you are writing your shopping list for this Christmas, take some time to visit local shops, ask the owners or shop assistants for the best price they can offer. You should find that they are keen to help you. And at the same time you are helping the local economy which over time will help you too.