At the height of the fall-out from the Great Depression in 1930s America, businesses were being shut in droves as banks foreclosed on failed loans. A record number of businesses being put up to auction. The communities around these businesses began a practice of attending the auctions en masse to bid only a very small amount of money so that the business ultimately sold for very little. The purchaser would then sell it back to its original owner. They became known as Penny Auctions.

While we are certainly not suggesting that Bellville business owners follow this practice (rigged auctions are illegal and South African banks have actually been integral in preventing economic collapse), it drives home a point; when times are tough communities pull together. We find ourselves in these times.

Covid-19 has caused all of us to become hyper-local; staying at home and only stepping out when necessary – preferably at a local mall or local store. Many businesses have added online shopping to their offering, but others have seen an increased loyalty and familiarity from their local customers in-store. Trust and convenience have become two of the key factors in everyday shopping experiences.

A third factor for many people has been the human interaction, however fleeting, that has helped with the isolation of lockdown. Seeing a familiar face and checking in with till cashiers and shelf packers has become a human touchpoint in a smaller lifestyle with tighter boundaries.

While some of these needs are driven by circumstance, there is also a growing global movement to support businesses at the local level – and it’s not a new idea. The call to return manufacturing and production to the local level comes off the back of globalisation’s unintended consequences: multiple industries collapsing as highly competitive international competitors undercut local manufacturing ecosystems. The call to procure and manufacture locally is a call to return capital to individual countries with resources, stimulate job markets and rebuild local economies.

While local as a movement is seeing its fair share of support on social media and in advertising campaigns, we need to avoid slacktivism. Clicking Like raises awareness but does not actively drive change. The growth of a local economy has to be based on tangible and interlinking benefits. Raw materials, skilled employees, dependable supply chains, capacity to scale appropriately and efficiently and a consistent work force are all essential for a product to remain competitive and consistently in demand. Value is key in a price-sensitive market so everyone in the value chain must work together to create the best possible environment for local to flourish.

At a micro level however, the local movement is about supporting small, struggling businesses, hand-made or artisanal foods and goods, and choosing local service providers wherever possible. Supporting the hyper-local movement is simply about making a choice about where to shop and what to buy.

At Bellville Connect, we are committed to buying local and supporting local. We are creating a space where businesses in Bellville can connect with each other and with the local community of customers. It also about celebrating the hard work and talent of our local entreprenuers. By joining Bellville Connect as a business, you will receive the benefit of a marketing platform and an ecommerce market on which to place your product or service. We are creating a source for news about offers and specials and will be driving seasonal campaigns that you can participate in. If you live in or work in Bellville, follow Bellville Connect to get news of deals and happenings in your neighbourhood! Sign up today, because local truly is lekker.