Perhaps if we looked after ourselves better and invested in the local economy, we’d all be better off.
That’s the potential of ‘buy local’, a round table heard.
But Sheffield City Region compares poorly with Newcastle - where loyalty is much more ingrained - and it was vulnerable to raiders from out of town, especially Leeds.
As the business leaders debated, it emerged there was much more to it than buying apples at the local greengrocer - it can require commitment, effort and thought.
The Star, in partnership with insurers AJ Gallagher, organised a discussion to discover the advantages of Sheffield City Region businesses having a ‘buy local’ policy or goal, how much it already happens and how much more could be done.
It was hosted by Barclays Bank at its offices at 1 St Pauls in Sheffield city centre and was attended by nine business people from sectors including construction, manufacturing, insurance and finance.
A key problem, said the manufacturers, was finding people locally with the skills they required - since few of them advertised and some didn’t even have websites.
Others revealed that when buying services they took the ‘path of least resistance’ online - usually choosing between the top few results on page one of Google and ignoring their location.
The debate also heard that national and multi-national companies had a central buying function - goods and services were purchased for the whole group by head office in another city. In response, Sheffield offices had joined organisations like the Chamber of Commerce, Company of Cutlers or Made in Sheffield as a way to support the local economy.
Local authorities had a role to play by creating a database of firms, the discussion heard. Birmingham City Council had set up ‘Find It Birmingham’ for that reason.
Sheffield City Council came in for criticism for not buying local enough or, where it did, not promoting it. It was also accused of wanting to sign up well known, but non-local, names for big projects for the supposed prestige.
Personal recommendation was also key. Builders and professionals do it well but other sectors don’t have the same tradition.
Steve Lunn, of Arthur J Gallagher, said: “Our Newcastle office is the largest outside of London for income.
“ In the North East there’s a great sense of civic pride and they are very into keeping business there.
“In Leeds, they are on their second and third shopping centre but Sheffield has not had its first.
“Perhaps if we looked after ourselves better and invested in the local economy that would be different.”
“Mark Ellis, of Sheffield City Council’s assistant commercial director, said: “We lead on the Buy4Sheffield initiative which involves the collaboration of eight Sheffield public sector organisations to make it easier for local suppliers to do business. In 2013-14 the council spent nearly £400 million, the equivalent of 59 per cent of total spend, with local suppliers.”