Saturday, 29 October 2011

Save the lesser spotted small shop

You know what’s bugging me?  Well, no, you don’t but, yup, if you keep reading, you’re gonna find out.  Supermarket delivery services.  All I keep seeing lately is people whining about them – the music at Ocado is boring; Tesco wouldn’t deliver to the right door; Asda were 18 hours late… Eh? 18 hours?  Shit, actually I’d be pissed off at that, come to think of it.
But really.
People say they miss having local shops. They lament the homogenisation of the High Street. They grumble about massive out of town superstores. But, but, but….they sit there ordering vast shops from said supermarkets. WTF?  I just don’t get it.  When you do that you are, quite literally, sticking a stake into the not quite yet undead heart of small local shops. Yes – you!
I can hear the reasons and, trust me, I know them. Choice. Quality. Price. Ease. Time. And, for sure, if you work all day and the only shops around you are those homogenised High Street ones…then…well…what can you do?  Honestly, I'm not beating up on you if you do the click click thing.  All I'm saying is - think about it.  And, if you can use local shops, if they still exist, the poor bastards, then use them. Before they vanish altogether.  Because, believe me, the local shop is an endangered species.  It’s the mercantile equivalent of that fluffy panda with the infeasible reproductive cycle; that sad polar bear on its vanishing bit of ice, that small invertebrate that nobody gives a sod about in the rainforest because it isn’t pretty. 

What happened to shopping daily for what you need right now?  It’s actually way more economical cos you don’t buy tons of crap you don’t really need.  Okay, I know I’m lucky.  I work from home and Dulverton has brilliant shops. We have a great veg shop, farm shop, butcher’s, baker’s, deli, sweet shop cum off-licence cum purveyor of coffee-flavoured tablet (oh yes!).  Yet, even so, I still see the Tesco vans ploughing up and down the road and really, it makes me sad.
Cos it’s not just about economics. It’s about community.  When I pop in and out of my local shops, I chat to people; I plug into what’s going on, I connect.  And, before you say it’s a rural thing, I did exactly the same when I lived in inner city London.  Do I use supermarkets?  Yes, of course I do.  But only occasionally, not as the norm.

Let's have some stats eh?  You can't argue with stats...  ;-)
- 2000 local shops close every year
- By 2015 there will be no independent retailers in the UK - that's 50,000 businesses.
- The average person now travels 893 miles a year to shop for food. (and no, you can't wriggle out by saying the van is coming to you - that's still road miles!)

So, c’mon folks.  Let’s give it a go, hey?  Eat local. Eat seasonal. Support small.  Support local people, not thumping great big business. Go on. Start today.  


Frankie said...

It's not just Britain where local stores get squeezed out. We used to have a cute independent kiosk/news stand with a fab chocolate selection. They had a prime location. Then, all of a sudden one day, it was a Pressbyrån.

I think the only non-chain groceries we have locally are tiny places that specialize in ethnic cuisine (and they are a godsend, because the chains only carry a basic assortment of those)--we try to shop in those a couple times a month, even if we only need something the chain stores also carry. Even in the chains, we give preference to the local and regional products.

Helena Halme said...

Hear, hear! I work in a bookshop on England's Lane in NW London. If I had a penny for every time a customer leaves (empty handed) the shop saying how nice it is to see a book shop on the street, I'd be a millionaire.

I feel like shouting after them, 'If you don't buy books from us, we won't be here much longer!'

Just can't understand some people.

Luckily we also have a huge number of loyal customers who understand simple economics...

Helena xx

Milla said...

tricky, I use that demon Tesco which is, the shame, like a local shop because you can't get through without chatting to at least 4 fellow shoppers you know and the staff are all familiar and friendly (and, most of them hate Tesco and it's stupid rules - shove a product through every 4 seconds etc whether or not the doddery pensioner-shopper can keep up or not). Big employer round here and there's a strip of sad shops hanging on to its coat tails. Never use the delivery service (am only a mile and a half down the road) as Queen of the bargains. Wish we had shops like yours though. Our shops are just funeral parlours and dry cleaners (keep those shrouds clean)

Bluestocking Mum said...

Like you, I'm very lucky in Church Stretton to have super shops, including wonderful independent bookshop.) This is a subject close to my heart and great that you're drawing attention to the small shops - use them or lose them - issues!


Zoë said...

I have tried to go for a compromise on this one.

I buy all my fresh food locally at farm shops, or local butchers, bakers and so on.

I try to opt for local producers, and failing that grow/make it myself, but I certainly use the internet for all the heavy bulky stuff such as washing powder, cat food and so on, because, firstly I can't lift most the stuff easily and secondly, you need a second mortgage to buy it in a local shops - the price differential is beyond my means, especially when Waitrose/Ocado etc deliver free, I dont have to drive anywhere, and pay parking and so on.

Oddly I think HW bucks the trend in many respects. when I moved here in 1986 the place was overwhelmed by antique shops and little else. We now sport 2 bakers, a traditional butcher who makes all his own sausages/hams etc, a minimark, an organic greengrocer/food shop, a florist, a local wine merchant, and a shop selling the wines of a local vineyard. There is is a couple of part time banks, a post office, a smattering of gift/antique shops and a gallery. Even the local Pubs and cafes seem to do well, despite the fact we have 2x Waitrose, 2x Morrisons, 3x Sainsbury, 3x Tesco, and the largest M&S and Tesco superstores in south of england with in 10 miles of us.

I think where I live which is undoubtedly an affluent area, can support local businesses, because they believe in the ethos and the cache local produces. I know for a fact though that not everyone can afford to shop like this, and now that our local council have in their wisdom decided to stop subsidising buses(effectively ending the local bus services) there is real concern amongst the older and more vulnerable people that they wont be able to afford to eat properly, because they cant afford to shop local, because invariably, local also means premium prices.

Don't think it is as black and white as it first appears in more rural communities, so I will stop rambling there.

Ashen said...

I touched upon this theme last August on my blog ... schools selling their football fields, a great number of small shops folding up, three post offices dismantled within a radius of 10 miles, local people mortgaging their houses to buy their community centre or their only village shop ...

Places in my environment (a small town in Surrey UK) where people can meet, relate, share, collaborate, reciprocate services and practice values are disappearing faster than I can blink ...

BTW, Jane,I wrote a little piece on an odd shop this morning. Resonance again :) I may post it later.

Rob-bear said...


We have some local shops here. The baker, some restaurants, little retail spots.

But the grocery store, though small, is part of a chain. Butchers are a vanishing breed; haven't seen one for years.

I try to shop local, or at the co-op, but there seems to be less and less every year.

But, still . . . I try to be hopeful.

T.L Tyson said...

I don't even understand why people order their food liek this. Unless you're an elderly person, get off your ass and go to the store. Walk there, too. And on thw ay home do bicep curls with the bags., :D

elsie anderton said...

i'm so with you on this - we shop as locally as possible & grow or trade with neighbours what we can.
now our village has its first tattoo parlour - this has thrown me a little as i feel obliged to patronise it... but how often?

Anonymous said...

All our local shops are shite. Makes you depressed going into them.

bunn said...

Too late, alas - our nearest shop is an invigorating 40 minute walk each way. The local postoffice closed over 15 years ago, and it is only online shopping and telecommuting that is once again making it more-or-less possible to live in this village without a car.

Anyway, my point is that there are quite a lot of small rural businesses that themselves sell online - via ebay or with little home made online shops taking payment via paypal. It may be worth seeking these out as well as the bricks and mortar small shops, as they too play a role in supporting local communities and enabling people to work locally. Online doesn't have to mean 'bought everything from a supermarket'.

Mhairi Simpson said...

I just started using my local butcher. They're brilliant. Didn't know what leaf lard was, so called up their market man. Then they sold me the straight fat and I'll render it myself. You wouldn't get that kind of service at a supermarket!

Although I actually did once, but that was a Peruvian supermarket, and the market markets actually had much better range and quality of fruits and veggies, and meat, than the supermarket. But Peru is a bit different :D

Exmoorjane said...

@bunn - that's a good point.