Supporting South African businesses has never been more important, especially amid the Covid-19 crisis. We speak to Mark Richardson from leading South African furniture manufacturer, The Bravo Group, who unpacks the many reasons why it is absolutely essential that we show support for home-grown businesses with our wallets, now and going forward.

“Loving local” has been a growing global trend for a while now, but it is a trend that has really been solidified due to the Covid-19 crisis. Says Mark Richardson from leading South African furniture manufacturer, The Bravo Group: “As increasingly more consumers look for brands that they can trust and that offer transparency with regards to the origins of their products, so have we seen a marked increase in the support for home-grown businesses.”

He notes that brands that embody a truly South African heritage are becoming progressively sought after – offering consumers something that is specifically designed for, and made by fellow South Africans: “The Bravo Group offers brands that have become household names in many South African homes, such as Gomma Gomma, Grafton Everest and Alpine Lounge for example. It prides itself in how it has managed to foster a rich South African heritage since the company’s inception in 1895. All our products are proudly manufactured in South Africa, and our company ethos pivots on sustainability of both the environment and the South African society we work and live in. We are passionate about South Africa, and passionate about producing quality and luxurious lounge suites. I believe that it is this kind of heritage and passion that will help us overcome these troublesome times, and in fact see us flourish moving forward.”

Although supporting local business is a growing market trend, Mark believes that it is one that needs to be fostered: “A 2019 Nielsen survey focusing on disloyalty found that 21% of South African consumers said that they were always influenced to try and switch brands based on South African attributes, and 33% more said that they were often influenced by local brands. It also noted however, that while 46% of South African consumers buy South African products, a whopping 42% still had no origin-based preferences. This needs to change – supporting South African business has to become a personal mantra for every citizen, so that we can pull through the economic devastation caused by the Coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown.”

He says that buying local does not strictly translate into isolating yourself from the outside world: “What it does mean is that consumers are using their buying power to drive locally-owned businesses in order to stimulate the South African economy and drive employment, as this has become of personal importance to each and every one of us.” He notes that during tough economic times, being proudly South African and supporting locally-owned businesses needs to be a vital part of our country’s fiscal survival strategy – here are some of his reasons why:

1.     Local economic stimulus: One of the main benefits of supporting locally-owned businesses, is obviously that more money is kept in South Africa and this helps grow the economy, notes Mark: “South African-owned businesses employ local people, buy products and use services of other local businesses, and pay tax to our government – they support the South Africans they employ, they help grow other South African businesses, as well as contributing to the local tax base.”

2.     Corporate social responsibility helps: Buying local also means you are indirectly supporting charities and social responsibility drives, says Mark: “South African businesses play an enormous part in aiding and funding socially uplifting drives throughout the country. By buying from South African-owned companies, you are helping them to leverage their resources to do good and invest back into their communities. The Bravo Group for example assists hundreds of South Africans through numerous learnership programmes that they run.”

3.     Job retention and creation: Local businesses employ South Africans – so when you invest in home-grown products, you are helping to create more jobs and to keep your fellow South Africans employed, says Mark: “The more South Africans that are employed, the better our economy and general society will be. There will be less crime, there will be more people contributing to taxes, and therefore the infrastructure, education and health systems will be improved. We should be doing everything in our power to retain existing jobs and promote new job opportunities – and supporting South African-owned businesses is the most efficient and easiest way of doing this.”

4.     Better customer service: South African-owned businesses have a clear understanding of our unique market, and are therefore able to offer better solutions to uniquely South African issues and consumer needs. Mark adds that local businesses are much more likely to go above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to customer service in order to retain their market share.

5.     Increased consumer choices: Local businesses are more fluid to local stimuli, and therefore they can stock an inventory based on their customer’s choices, rather than international trends, allowing consumers to purchase what they really want, instead of being told what they want. Also, Mark points out that supporting local means that you are supporting a marketplace made up of many small, medium and large businesses, which ensures competition, and in turn promotes innovation and lower prices over the long-term.

6.     Help build communities: Local businesses are owned by people who live in local communities, and are therefore invested in their local community’s welfare and future. Mark elaborates: “Local communities can also be defined by the distinctively local businesses – they can serve as a catalyst for increased community spirit and identity.”

7.     A better environmental and ethical choice: As a general rule, Mark says that shopping local can be more environmentally friendly: “Local businesses tend to use less packaging, which leads to less waste, and an increased reduction in their global footprint as they require less transportation costs and in turn, create less pollution.”

8.     Global brands double down on local: With local south African brands gaining momentum, it would be easy to assume that global multinational companies face the biggest challenges. However, Mark explains that to continue to remain successful, many of these companies have invested in-market with vigorous local sourcing criteria: “Brands, such as La-Z-Boy for example, which is part of The Bravo Group, is a well-known international brand – however, they are 100% locally manufactured in our South African factories, by South Africans, using mostly locally-sourced materials. The global brands that give back in this manner offer consumers the best of both – the benefits of buying local, with their global quality assurances.”

“The Coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on South African-owned businesses – big and small – threatening thousands of jobs and our nation’s economic stability. I urge every South African to please show your solidarity and shop local – origin matters – support businesses that create jobs, support communities, cultivate innovation, and give back to our nation. Without your help, many of these businesses won’t survive the negative financial impact of Covid-19. Support local and help us to help you!” Mark concludes.

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