What is the importance of shopping locally?

How to shop locally and use independent retailers

A visit to Loose (see below) and a separate comment from a friend prompted me to write about the importance of shopping locally.

In Tewkesbury, we used to have an old fashioned cobbler's where they could re-sole, repair and give new life to our shoes.  No plastic in sight and sorely missed.  Now we have nowhere to mend, let alone purchase a decent pair of shoes. Similarly, when I moved to the town twenty-four years ago,  there were two or three greengrocers in the High Street and now we have none, which for a town our size is fairly unusual.

We do still have some independent retailers; a friend popped into the Cookshop recently to look at griddle pans, she found the customer service and advice excellent and the price was competitive as well.  Instead of sending the money to a well known online retailer who has iffy tax-paying records, the money stayed in the local economy where people living close by are employed.   There was less packaging too.  Another reason to avoid the multi-national corporations is that they are becoming ever larger and more powerful.  Ultimately they will reduce our choice and dictate where our goods come from.  Many of them also donate to the main two political parties - buying political influence in things which affect our daily lives without us even realising! You can find out which companies donate here Electoral Commission political party donations.

One of my favourite independents is Autospares which has recently celebrated fifty years of business.  I get all my bike accessories and advice from them - you can read more about this in a previous blog about cycling.
Libraries, Post Offices, independent shops - if we don't use them, we'll loose them.  There is a child-like waiting for Christmas Eve type excitement when ordering a book from the library and the anticipation of its arrival.  When you return it, others can take pleasure (if it's a good book) and you don't need to line your shelves with fodder for the dust monsters.

If I can't get a book through the library, via a friend who has it or second hand, we do have an excellent independent bookshop in the town called Alison's which has a large range of books and really good service - you can order something and if it's not in stock and it will come much quicker than from the chain-owned bookshop.  It's a useful place to visit when considering a gift for someone.

Independent Cafés

We do have plenty of locally owned cafés and I would urge you to use these instead of the big brands for reasons stated above.   Totnes fought hard to not allow a Costa.  You can read about that here: How Totnes stopped Costa. Our favourite local is Caffè e Vino which serves delicious, authentic Italian food and drinks.

Many of us miss the electrical shop Treens where we could also get bits and pieces repaired, but we are now exceedingly fortunate to have a Repair Café.  (Perhaps they can re-sole shoes?)

Community benefits to using local shops and businesses

If you use the local shops and businesses they will thrive and others will want to set-up, bringing you even more choice.  Towns are far more attractive when their shops are in use.  It's a good place to meet and make friends too which can only enrich the communities in which we live.  In turn, mutually supporting each other is good for all concerned - if you use a local person's service or business, they are likely to use yours and/or recommend you to others in return.

Why customer service is best from independent shops

Our local Delicatessen 1471 sells the best bread, plus customised sandwiches and various deli treats.  Once I went in to buy our usual loaf and realised that I had left my purse at home. As I am a regular customer and they know me well, they said that I could take the bread and bring the money next time I was in town - I was really surprised and delighted - this is the sort of service and trust that you would never receive in a supermarket or corporate-owned shop!  The bread is made in the area, so the food miles are very low too.

Eleven reasons to shop locally from independent shops (summary)

  • You may be able to walk or cycle there (fitness)
  • You may be able to walk or cycle (saving a car journey and parking fees)
  • Money stays in the local economy
  • Support small businesses (people) rather than large, powerful corporations
  • Help to keep your town alive and thriving
  • Mutual support
  • Meet and make friends 
  • Independents = interesting (not the same as everywhere else)
  • Strong, supportive communities
  • Better customer service
  • More locally-produced goods

Loose - the new plastic-free shop in Stroud

What a pleasure it was to visit the newly opened shop Loose in Stroud.  Owner Julie has listened to what so many people are saying and is able to provide loose (unpackaged) items for sale. Most of the dried foods are organic and despite it being a small shop, there is plenty of choice. Goods include dried fruits, beans and pulses, rice, pasta and seeds. You can also buy oil, coffee and tea.  Non-edibles include beautiful wooden brushes for scrubbing veg and washing pots, shampoo bars and beeswax wraps which are reusable alternatives to clingfilm.

How does buying loose food products work?

Borrow a shop container, then scoop for example some oats into it and take them to the scales.  Put another empty container on the scales and set them to zero (so that you're not paying for the weight of the pot).  Add the oats and press the price per weight button.  Next you enter the price per 100g - in this case 15p and then you press one more button which produces your label. Tip the oats into your own container (there are funnels available) and stick the label on the lid.  If you don't have a pot, you can buy a small, soft reusable cotton bag for 50p.

Don't worry - help is at hand to show you the first time and it's easy enough.

How independent shops can stock what people ask for

It's a new shop and stock will work on a trial and error basis - if people buy things they will be replaced.  If they are slow, they may not be available again. If there something specific that you'd like to see there just ask.

Try before you buy too much and don't over-stock

You can purchase enough to see if you like a particular product.  Things won't get stale because you don't have to buy a great big packet and products are therefore more affordable as you never have to over-buy.  Here's a box of organic peanuts which I will definitely be buying again :)

The bliss of coming away with no packaging - yes, it takes a bit longer, but so what? Everyone is friendly, chatty and on a wave of wholesomeness.

The shop smells delightful too - of wood and oats, the opposite of sterility.

All of the products are housed in containers made from metal, glass, earthenware, wood etc.   Julie designed the lovely wooden display cabinets herself and they were made locally.

Julie has decided not to use paper bags - because although better than other materials, they are still designed for single use.

Are we finding supermarkets too sterile?
Later I popped into Waitrose which for me of all the supermarkets has the most pleasant feel - good customer service, friendly staff, plenty of space and light and edible products :) Actually, there's not much that we buy in any supermarkets now, in fact I happily walk past the majority of aisles picking up nothing at all.  However, what stuck out more than ever was the contrast to Loose - all the plastic packaging - whole foods - grains, pulses - all covered in plastic.  I left having bought just a bottle of wine.  What a joy that Stroud now has a viable alternative.  Don't forget to take your pots, jam jars, bags and bottles to fully enjoy your Loose experience.

I wonder if anyone has been inspired by some loose thoughts and would like to provide Tewkesbury with a similar shop to Stroud's latest gem?