Our independent shops are what makes England unique. Nowhere else on earth can you find streets home to newsagents, ironmongers, cake shops, bakeries, toy shops and booksellers. Yet the rise of supermarkets, chain stores and online stores has led many to go to the wall, often after hundreds of years being run by family businesses.
Use them or lose them! If you are on a budget, find ways to support an indie, whether it’s simply a loaf of bread from a real baker, treating yourself or a friend to a nice book, or choosing a real toy for your child’s birthday. Indie shops themselves can help by offering unique services (you can’t compete on price). Think out of the box! Offer loyalty cards and free foot/bicycle delivery.
How Local Shops Keep Money Local
Big supermarkets may donate to the community, but it’s better to simply save our local indie shops instead, which bring more money into the community by employing local wholesalers, signwriters etc (who in turn likely have lunch at the local pub).
Supermarkets don’t work out cheaper in the long run. They sell junk food (which in turns leads to high costs for the NHS) plus you need fuel often to get there, and money to park if you go over the alloted time slot. Also supermarkets are designed so the cheap low-profit items (like porridge oats) are on the bottom shelf, while the high-profit sugary cereals are sold at eye-level. If they cared about our health, they would have more than two aisles of fresh foods as you go in, rather than aisles and aisles of processed high-profit foods in cardboard packs and cans. If councils also invested in walkable communities and public parks, combined we would have far healthier communities.
Big supermarkets also tend to encourage us to buy more than we need – from huge loaves of bread for small families to giant-size muffins and cakes. Most are designed with bright colours and loud music to make your brain stressed so you buy more (ever wondered why McDonald’s is bright red and yellow?) Compare that to a relaxing zero waste store, the natural textures and peaceful ambience lets you think and consider, before you purchase.
What Indies Shops Can Offer
They can’t compete on price. But indies can offer many unique selling points over big supermarkets. If you buy or sell plants, know pet-toxic plants and houseplants to avoid recommending, due to many people being unaware.
- People can usually walk or cycle to your shop
- You can order things in for customers
- You can allow well-mannered pooches!
- People can leave things in your fridge
- You can set up a tab for customers
- You know your customers by name
- You provide interesting & secure jobs
- There is no self checkout!
- There is no piped music!
- You can offer free foot/bike delivery
- You can phone customers, to update stock
- You bring more money into the community
- You support local farmers & artisans
- Your shop sign is likely locally-made
- You have lunch at the local cafe or pub
- You stick around, when things get tough
- You don’t wrap everything in plastic.
- You can answer ‘product questions’
Ideas to Help Save Indie Shops
- Make use of local loyalty cards like Local Buyers Club (London) or Mustcard (South East).
- Shopappy lets indie shops list online for home delivery.
- Apply for a free license to become a Totally Locally town.
- Set up an indie shop website like in Oxford or Cambridge
- Create a local blog about indie shops, with special offers.
Books to Save Your Indie Shops
- Good Morning, Beautiful Business (the story of a woman who set up a tiny muffin shop in Philadelphia, to save her row of Victorian brownstone houses in Philadelphia from demolition). It not only blossomed into a community hub, but kicked off America’s organic sustainable food movement.
- Specialty Shop Retailing for out-of-the-box ideas to help your indie shop thrive (covers shop design, stock, customer service, marketing and preventing theft).