|Up the alley on the left|
Two things have made me think again about the place of local, independent retailers. A few months ago another Tesco Express shop opened, this time on Maid Marian Way, and in the last ten days, a new Sainsbury's Local opened on the edge of the Lace Market, just a few yards away from another Tesco.
The second thing that made me think was a visit to the Classical CD Music Shop on High Pavement, just opposite the Pitcher & Piano Pub. I'd set aside a few pounds to buy some Chopin music, and for that money I was delighted to come away with three CD's, at very reasonable prices, which I'm playing as I'm typing this. One of the CD's is Chopin's 24 Preludes, played by Arthur Rubinstein, which according to the man in the shop that I spoke to is the best interpretation of the Preludes in existence. That's why you should use local and independent shops - friendliness and knowledge of the subject.
I wonder how many people visiting Nottingham (or indeed live in Nottingham) and walking up and down High Pavement will know of this shop's existence? As can be seen from the picture above, it's situated down a none too pleasant alleyway, but at the end of September it will be moving a few hundred yards into the shopping area of Hockley. They also provide an Internet ordering service. I was pleased to hear that their future looked bright. This however is not the case with many local, independent retailers up and down the country in rural and urban areas.
The issue has been of concern for a number of years, but the problem has yet to be resolved, and around 2,000 local shops are still disappearing every year, with the British Retail Consortium saying that up to 12% of high street shops are currently vacant for a variety of reasons. In preparing this blog, I have read a number of interesting reports and campaign documents, such as 'The London Small Shops Study 2010'; the House of Commons All-Party Parliamentary Small Shops Group report called, 'High Street Britain: 2015'; the Evening Standard's 'Save our Small Shops' campaign from 2007, and the Friends of the Earth campaign launched in the same year, 'Shop Local First'.
In support of independent retailers, The Independent Retailers Confederation says that they "provide added value which goes much wider than the purely economic. For example, small local shops allow many people to shop locally on foot, reducing carbon emissions created by driving to distant out-of-town stores; the services they provide are crucial to their local communities, often allowing the elderly to remain in their own homes rather than having to move to residential accommodation". To the Retail Enterprise Network, "small retailers are especially important to the disadvantaged consumer. In deprived areas where private and public transport links are poor, the local community relies on local shops to cater for their needs".
Friends of the Earth listed the following benefits;
- Local shops are more likely to provide local food that hasn't been flown halfway across the world
- Local shops offer a much m ore personal service than big supermarkets
- Local shops keep money circulating in the local area, so they support other local businesses
- Local shops and street markets often offer better value than bigger supermarkets for fresh fruit and vegetables
- Local shops are more energy efficient than huge supermarkets
- A diverse range of local shops provides more choice than the big supermarket
So there is a huge groundswell of support for the presence of local, independent shops in our communities. If this is the case, why are so many still struggling or going out of business? No doubt the reasons are many and complex, and Government studies, as well as independent ones focus on addressing some of these reasons.
- retail competition from large chains
- parking and transport
- local taxes and rent
I understand that when money is tight, and budgets are small, that every penny counts, but perhaps there are times when believing in something necessitates small sacrifices. Some will remember a few years ago when Post Office's were under threat of closure, there was a well known slogan that went, "Use it or Lose it". It unfortunately didn't save that many Post Office's that were ear marked for closure, but the slogan's principle was correct. If we don't use local, independent shops, then there is the danger of losing them.
I've tended to use large retail outlets in the past for convenience, and much of the time for price. Quality has been a secondary consideration. Relying on public transport, and carrying heavy goods means that it's not always easy to 'shop around'. I understand the difficulty. But I don't want the 'Tescoisation' of our high streets, whether in city, town or village. I'm going to try my hardest to do as much shopping as posssible in my local, independent shops. These will have to provide goods that have quality, and are by and large reasonably priced (even if a bit dearer than the chains). The shops should offer a friendly and knowledgable service, for if they don't, why should anyone go to them?
Let's join with those who buck the trend, and "Support your local ......", and save our small shops.