In recent months small business forums and social media have been full of doom and gloom as a combination of rising overheads, falling footfall and cut-throat competition for fewer spending customers has taken its toll on the high street, as well as parts of the internet highway. Comet and some of the bigger casualties aside (and who does not feel sadness for anyone thrown out of a job in the current climate?), it's the small independents who seem to be bearing the brunt as customers ruthlessly rein in their budgets.
As the saying goes, if we don't use them we'll lose them, so it has been encouraging to see 'goodwill towards small and local' going viral on Facebook and Twitter with simple reminder messages like these:
Some small independents are also now working together to actively promote their 'go local' message, such as the Downtown Dundee group, which includes our friends at RARA vintage, the aptly named gift shop Lovely Things and Freedom Hair Experience.
Describing their collective efforts as "Creative, Unique Shopping in the Heart of the City", they confidently assert that " The Lights are much brighter here!" The Frockers can certainly testify to that as we are frequent 'downtown' visitors and enjoy regular business meetings at the popular, vintage inspired t ann cake cafe (motto: "drop scones not bombs") in Exchange Street - despite the ridiculous parking charges (come on Dundee, take a leaf out of Angus Council's book and don't penalise short-stay shoppers!)
Small traders may not have the big budgets of the chain stores or the free car parking (see above gripe) and buy-everything-under-one-roof apparent convenience of supermarkets, but they do excel at customer service, offer quality products and services and are often just as inexpensive as some of their much bigger competitors. So why not give them a chance and help re-energise your local high street? And don't forget the micro online outlets (that's us, folks!) who also go the extra mile for their customers and who are all too aware of the benefits of spending local and supporting fellow 'smalls' themselves.
Meanwhile Black Friday's nemesis Buy Nothing Day, which this year falls on Saturday 24th November, is also fast approaching. From their website:
Everything we buy has an impact on the environment, Buy Nothing Day highlights the environmental and ethical consequences of consumerism. The developed countries - only 20% of the world population are consuming over 80% of the earth's natural resources, causing a disproportionate level of environmental damage, and an unfair distribution of wealth.
In this informative and inspiring article just published in Permaculture Magazine, Mark Boyle, author of the Moneyless Manifesto, reminds us that economics is about how we meet our needs and that a money-based model is only one example among many. Pointing out the obvious, he says:
One of the only 'days' invented that hasn't morphed into a Buy More Meaningless Crap exercise is international Buy Nothing Day.
Although it may seem like a counter-intutive campaign for a small retailer to promote, here at the Frockery we are all for anything that makes people stop to think about their shopping habits and (hopefully) become more conscientious consumers in the process. From the Buy Nothing Day FAQs:
We support independent local shops and want people to shop locally. However, our high streets have been cloned by the big brands and the small shops are closing. We understand local shops act as a community hub and must be preserved. Use Buy Nothing Day to promote your local business! Do something that the big brands can’t do - hold a free food tasting day, organise a swap shop, or go fairtrade.
So in an effort to do our bit, we are offering all customers who spend £25 or more at RARA until the end of the month a 25% discount code to be redeemed against Frockery online purchases up to and including 30th November 2012. Just look out for the code with your RARA receipt and enter it at our checkout!
Meanwhile here's Petula with some great advice.