The Joy Of Shopping At Independents

Yesterday morning I popped into Oswestry to buy a few things.  I came home chuffed that I managed to purchase almost everything I needed without having to set foot in a supermarket or big chain store.  Yes, it took more time.  Yes, it was slightly more expensive (and I do mean slightly).  And yes, I had to leave the house.  But I got to chat with the chap in the wholefoods store, who recommended I try rose harissa instead of the normal kind I had in my basket.  I also gossiped to the ladies in the greengrocers and the bookshop, all of whom know my name, despite having only lived in the town for three months.  But most of all, I felt a sense of positivity and pleasure in knowing the money I was spending was directly benefiting the person who was serving me, and that in making a deliberate choice in where I choose to shop, I was, albeit in a very small way, contributing to the long-term benefit and growth of my community. Given that my husband and I run a small legal content writing company probably makes me a little more conscious than I would have been five years ago about the importance of independent retailers and the value they add to society as a whole.  But evidence is showing that I am far from alone in making a considered decision regarding where I spend my money.  A recent article about Sevenoaks in Kent highlights how its high street is bustling and independent shops are thriving. Shrewsbury is a classic example of a town that has turned its fortunes around by encouraging independent traders to thrive and prosper.  Locals tell me that five years or so ago, Shrewsbury town centre was not the beautiful place it is today – packed with people and life.  The market was dying and the big chains had pulled out, leaving a swathe of empty stores in their wake.  Today, Shrewsbury Market Hall has been recognised as Britain’s Favourite Market and independent shops outnumber the big chains by almost half.  And the push to encourage the support of independent traders shows no signs of stopping.  Recently, Shrewsbury BID launched an ‘independent shops passport‘ which allows residents and tourists to win prizes by collecting stamps when purchasing from local organisations. One surprising factor in the recent boom in support for independent traders is it is not the older generation driving it.  Millennials, who thanks to growing up in the digital age, are more global and socially aware than previous generations, and are therefore keen to buy local, ethically sourced products.  What’s more, they are willing to pay more for sustainable offerings. Those pressed for time (and who isn’t) do not have to make special trips to their local high street to support independent businesses.  Many have a large internet-based store as well as bricks and mortar premises or are only accessible online.  One second-hand bookseller I met in the market last weekend told me his stall did not generate a great deal in the way of sales, it was more useful for acquiring stock.  Most of his turnover came from his online store (which I have yet to visit for fear of the health of my bank balance and my husband’s sanity). However, although online shopping provides enormous benefits, the British High Street is in serious trouble.  It is estimated that 100,000 shops could be empty in 10 years if business rates are not overhauled and the placement of out-of-town developments not controlled.  But we consumers have a part to play if we want to retain our high street and support entrepreneurship.  Yes, buying a product from a ‘Mom and Pop’ store may be a little more expensive, but could you be a little more discerning in how much you consume, i.e. buy quality over quantity?  Let’s face it, we are all drowning in ‘stuff’.  One of the big drawcards of moving to Oswestry was Booka Bookshop, which sells almost all its books at full retail price.  After we moved, I made a vow to quit buying from Amazon and, as much as possible, support Booka.  Could I buy more books if I continued to use Amazon?  Absolutely.  But the pleasure I get from going into my local bookshop, selecting just one book and knowing the profit from my purchase is going directly to the owners is a priceless experience. My other reason for supporting independents traders is they give back so much to the community.  When I was fundraising for the London Marathon, it was the independent shops and restaurants in Biggleswade (where I lived at the time), who offered to donate money/prizes.  Mule, the local bikeshop in Oswestry holds talks and has an organised ride every Sunday.  Booka runs bookclubs and holds regularly author evenings.  These types of activities bind a community together and to lose it would be a tragedy. So next time you need some cheese, bread, vegetables, a book, a packet of screws or some clothes, just think for a moment – could you get what you need from an independent business rather than a supermarket or big chain store?  And is it possible, just occasionally, to actually go to a store in person to buy an item?  Say hello to the shopkeeper.  Ask their advice.  Chat about the weather. Enjoy the interaction, and the satisfaction of choosing to spend your money to support a family and the community at large. Engage in the experience. You might well miss it when it’s gone. The Legal Copywriting Company has been writing articles, blogs and web content for solicitors and barristers for over four years.  To find out how we can help you, please call us on  01691 839661 or email corinne@thelegalcopywritingcompany.co.uk.    

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