Choosing local doesn’t just help the economy; it also keeps cultural diversity alive in the community.
The Hong Kong skyline is usually represented by glittering skyscrapers and soaring towers. But the truth is, the spirit of our city lives in our small businesses (SMBs). It shines in bustling cha chan tengs packed with people, conversation, and delicious dim sum. It resonates within streetside stalls hawking dragon beard candy and painted porcelain ornaments. They are Hong Kong. They are part of who we are.
But they are dying. First it was globalisation – when big foreign brands arrived and created a brand-conscious, prestige-focused culture of materialism. Then it was COVID-19, which brought increasing overhead costs and stagnant revenue streams – an incredible burden for SMB owners who had already invested their savings and relied on a steady cash flow to survive.
Numbers speak volumes; over 98 percent of our businesses are SMBs that contributed 41 percent to our national GDP in 2019. But economic value aside, we have a greater cultural responsibility to preserve SMBs. If these bright spots of creativity and character are replaced by ubiquitous, wealthy international chains, we lose our essence. We become just another generic big city. Must we wait till our traditions become the new novelty to act?
We need to support our local ecosystem now. Invest in our SMBs like we would any other business. Many shops and restaurants are now offering pre-order sales or store vouchers with enhanced value for future use. Buy them; not only can we keep our SMBs alive by boosting their short-term cash flow, we also benefit from value-for-money deals.
SMBs also need high sales and order volumes to overcome the revenue shortfall from the July slowdown, which in turn requires a larger market. We can support them and help spread the word. With more SMBs now going digital and pivoting to e-commerce, we can order from them online and promote them on social media, which helps them generate revenue and expands their audience.
Lastly, social distancing restrictions have been easing gradually as Hong Kong recovers from its third COVID-19 infection wave. Shopping or eating outside - within limits - helps your favourite establishments earn an income, attract other walk-in customers and lift employee spirits. This is especially important to sustain stalls and shops that cannot go online.
Many sacrifices will be made this year, but if we work together, we can all do our part to help. Every bit makes a difference, and every SMB that keeps on going is another piece of our identity preserved.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Hongkong Business. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Cheryl Ng was born in Hong Kong and grew up in four countries and cities. With an insatiable curiosity and a firm belief that differences should be celebrated, Cheryl has always been an explorer. Her curiosity-driven approach to travel led her to recognise the need for a technology solution to help other explorers collect and share authentic recommendations, through which a community driven by positivity could be built. With this goal in mind, she created Lemi.