There was an interesting article in the Guardian this Saturday [See Here] entitled “The British High Street: RIP” which was quite a depressing article that painted a potentially sterile and bleak outlook on the future of towns in the UK.
We are extremely lucky in Calderdale as the number of empty shops that we have is extremely low compared to the rest of the country and we do not score highly in the Clone Town stakes.
The general gist of the article was how on the high street many of the chains such as HMV, Game, (previously Woolworths) are part of the “squeezed middle” and are facing an ultimately impossible task against the Supermarkets and online retailers. The outcome of the article went along the lines of a probable future choice of either higher end boutiques and lattes or pound shops, betting or boarded up shops.
At Totally Locally we are seeing a different way, something that Elizabeth Cox from NEF alludes to in the article.
There is a choice that we can make to battle this type of high street desertion and that is by replacing the chain stores that close with good quality independent shops that provide something else for the community around it and the people who live around it.
This will require a conscious choice by both shoppers and shopkeepers to invest time and a change of habits for it to be successful.
Shoppers will need to invest a little more time and effort into “Shopping” rather than simply ”Getting” and shopkeepers will need to provide something different from the large superstores and supermarkets, and be more tolerant of time and work pressures of shoppers.
The decline of HMV is an interesting one, this in the same week that Muse Music in Hebden Bridge has received acclaim as one of Five Treasured Music Shops in a BBC article. .
Where did HMV fall down? Ultimately HMV moved into a business model based on profit per unit price and a large stock of material. This retail outlet model has been surpassed in stock inventory and ruthless pricing by the supermarkets and online retailers such as Amazon and Play. HMV no longer add any more value than the cheaper alternatives.
I would willing pay slightly more for my music if I receive the recommendation from the shop staff that if I like the old folk rocks bands like the Levellers then I might like to listen to Bellowhead, etc. This knowledge and way of shopping is a process of buying by listening to someone’s opinion, their help and guidance rather than simply ‘getting’ product.
[The more worry thing for me which I will write about soon is how Amazon has the technology to look up the barcode on the CD in my independent shop and tell me how much cheaper Amazon may be…this is the crux of my love hate relationship with Amazon]
Music is a simple example, but there are examples of this going on all around Calderdale. Whether it be fantastic soaps from The Yorkshire Soap Company, A mince pie and bit of mulled wine when shopping at Christmas at Trinkette, Comfy Bums keeping hold of a piece of Leather and some of the fastenings used to reupholster furniture that has been in my family a long time, just in case my children damage them. These are all things, be they products, a personal touch or a service that I would not get from any chain on the high street.
These are the examples of how independent shops can thrive and give better service than I can get from the larger stores…but it did mean that I had to bite the bullet and actually strike up conversations with people and actually ‘shop’ again rather than just ‘get’ something.
To borrow again from the article in the Guardian where one of the contributors states “they are not really supermarkets anymore…they are mini-villages”, in a slightly exaggerated black-and-white way the choice seems to boil down about where you want to live.
Do you want to live in a mini-supermarket utopia where we simply go out a ‘get’ whatever we are given the choice to get by a large corporation…or do we want to invest time and money into a range of independent experts on our high street that complement the chains in terms of service, choice and originality?
The mantra of have you done your Totally Locally shop as well as your other shopping and the spending £5 per week in your local independent shops will change the future of our high street…it just isn’t always the easiest option.
Totally Locally – Invest in your town, invest in its future.
What do you think?
Totally Locally – Nigel