It pays to shop locally
Among my earliest memories are those which involve me being dragged to the shops, kicking and screaming, by my permanently exasperated mother.
Those grainy recollections involve us picking up a quarter of a pound of luncheon meat for our dinner along with frequent visits to the corner shop, where the curmudgeonly owner would flog us two penny chews for five pence. Naturally, his nickname locally was Dick Turpin.
Like most children born in the 1970s and early 1980s, I spent much of my formative years in shops, the majority of which were independent businesses such as butchers, greengrocers and even the largely long forgotten general stores, where you could buy a chunk of Red Leicester along with a box of picture hooks.
We knew the names of those shopkeepers and while some of those wouldn’t appear on most people’s Christmas card list, they were reassuringly familiar faces. I don’t remember going to the supermarket much, largely due to the fact that the nearest chainstore was a 25 minute drive away and we only went there when we fancied something posh, such as frozen pizza..
These days, most of us are usually no more than five minutes away from at least one supermarket and depend upon them so heavily that we cannot cope when they shut for a couple of hours a week - visit any well known store at 3.55pm on a Sunday and the chaos is reminiscent of Moscow in 1990, following the fall of communism.
Supermarkets, and big business in general, are all well and good but it is the locally-based, smaller outfits that really make our communities tick, which is why we need to cherish these smaller businesses.
Yes, they may sometimes be a bit more expensive than a Tesco or a budget European chain, but our local businesses are far more accountable to their customers. This is because if a smaller business serves up a substandard product, or offers up an appalling customer service then they won’t last for long. People talk to each other, especially if they have a real beef and a bad reputation is the kiss of death for any small, local business.
It may not always be the case, but my view is that you tend to get a better customer experience from somebody who owns their company than you do from an employee who knows they will get paid, whether the punters are happy or not.
This weekend heralds Small Business Saturday, something which has followed the dreadful Black Friday across the Atlantic but is a cause worth getting behind. We are often told that our town centres are dying a slow, painful death, which has much to do with the rise and rise of online shopping.
We can play our part by pulling ourselves away from Sky Sports on a Saturday afternoon and get down the High Street and put cash into the tills of those who live in our communities. Yes, you can buy most things from the comfort of your reclining armchair but you cannot beat the satisfaction of knowing that you are supporting people who live and work in your town or village. This newspaper is doing its bit with its Love Your High Street campaign and it has already struck a chord with many.
If you really care about the local economy then you will support small businesses this weekend and beyond.