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Keeping Trade Local – is it possible?
by Janet Torley on 06/08/2011

A few weeks ago someone commented on this blog about shopping or trading locally and I said I would respond when I had thought about it a little bit more. This is a very difficult and potentially inflammatory subject but also one that many people jump on the bandwagon of being seen supporting local businesses. Sometimes I think that support is a little bit like proclaiming to the world that one is on a diet, all the while secretly scoffing Mars Bars when no one is looking.

So, I thought I would record for all and sundry to see what my shopping habits have been this past week and some of the reasons why I made these choices or, indeed had to make do with the choices.

Monday – staying in Reeth in the Yorkshire Dales on holiday – only requirement was for blister plasters as I was in the middle of an epic walk. Local village store didn’t have any as they had run out, but was jampacked to the roof with all sort of merchandise. However wasn’t very busy which was a shame as the assistant was lovely

Tuesday – stayed in Aysgarth – no shops – asked someone local what they did, home deliveries from Tesco and Asda

Wednesday – needed to get petrol but the only filling station in the Yorkshire Dales on our route was charging nearly £1.50 per litre so I only filled up with enough to get me to the cheaper stop. Stopped in Oakley, my nearest shopping point after our local village shop shut nearly a year ago. Good variety of shops in Oakley including a butcher, baker and optician but as I didn’t need my eyes tested I chose the Co-op because it has all the basics and always a few good bargains to choose from.

Thursday – cupboards a bit bare so off to Tesco. At this point you might ask – why not shop locally – too expensive for a weekly shop but then again I am lucky – I have choices – I have transport and, quite frankly, the convenience of everything available under one roof and one journey and one load of shopping to transport is hard to argue against.

Friday – needed some plastic ducks and paddling pool – wasn’t going to risk a trip to Toys “R” Us – probably the nearest opportunity for toy shopping of this sort. So online for 15 minutes, job done and at rock bottom bargain prices (goods delivered on Saturday – result)

Saturday – needed to get fresh butcher meat, fruit and veg and bread and rolls so off to local specialist shops. Why – because the quality of the produce is way above anything from any supermarket.

So what does this say about me – I am an ordinary person, watching the pennies I spend and wanting value for money.  What does this say about shopping locally – nice to do it when seeking quality and personal service but I do usually get a nice smile and a few words from the assistants in Tesco or M&S.  Shopping online is just so convenient and cost effective – no petrol greedy trips – for many things – even plastic ducks.

I think that the way we purchase our goods and services has changed irrevocably.  The big supermarkets are part of life now.  But I do chuckle at the new innovation of home deliveries – when I was a young newly wed I went to our local Co-op in Dunfermline – the only supermarket in town – bought my weekly groceries and they were then delivered to my door the same afternoon.  Saved much humphing of bags.

So what does this say to small businesses whether in retail or products or services.  I think it says that Mr & Mrs Consumer want plenty of choices nowadays and that having an online presence is almost a must for any business.  If you are on the High Street, specialise and deliver a shopping experience.  If you are products orientated be niche and if you are service be the absolute best.

I don’t think we will ever have the High Streets of old back again, but I am not sure just what will be there instead.