How we shop for saucepans and socks can grow or destroy our way of life, says Jo Rees
Let’s do a quick thought experiment. First, imagine a small town without its local independent stores: the art supplies shop, bookshop, pet food store, florist, clothes retailers and cookware shop – all gone. Just strip them out – in this experiment people are buying their dog food, books and saucepans online and the small stores simply can’t stay in business any longer.
Then erase the bakery, butchers, veg shop, fishmonger and deli. Sure, they were able to stay open during the lockdowns because of their status as food retailers, but their long-term viability becomes precarious when the town doesn’t have the other stores that went in the first cull. Fewer reasons for shoppers to go to town results in not enough customers to keep indie food and drink retailers afloat – pull down their imaginary shutters too.
Next, remove the cafes and daytime restaurants – who is going to visit the town for a coffee or quick lunch when there’s nothing else there?
Think about the tax those small shops, restaurants and retailers pay – money which funds the NHS, education, policing and refuse collection. Recent newspaper reports show Amazon’s key UK business paid just 3 per cent more tax last year when profits rose by more than a third as the online retailer benefited from the switch to home shopping.
Then picture the jobs in retail and hospitality in this town – and consider where its employees spend their wages: local plumbers, dentists, childcare providers, hairdressers, bars, restaurants and all the services that make a vibrant community.
Finally, imagine what happens when those service businesses make redundancies or close because local people who have lost their jobs don’t have the money to use them anymore.
Now imagine this is your town and think about where you fit into the above. Then consider how you plan to do your Christmas shopping this year.
It couldn’t be more straightforward: we all need to support local and independent businesses because we’re all interconnected. The good news is we’ve each got a little bit of power to support our community by being conscious of where we spend our money.
Let’s spread the love and keep it local this Christmas – and beyond.