So I did a talk on Saturday about supporting indy stores, at an event run by the excellent For Folk’s Sake. It’s a subject I care about greatly.
Because independent stores provide more than just a nice experience. Buying from these shops can make a huge difference to our local areas. Here’s why:
1) The simple act of money passing from one local to another local increases local wealth; in fact, the New Economics Foundation says this is as good as bringing new money into an area. So shopping in this type of store creates stronger local economies. This in turn helps build resilience, enabling an area to better deal with whatever challenges or changes might come its way.
2) It keeps variety on the high street – and this is important because high streets are not just about commerce; they’re places where people meet and eat, and they provide a community focal point when often there isn’t a viable alternative. So we need to keep them as places that we want to be, and places that offer choice, rather than allowing them to be filled with empty shops.
So what can we do to help local independent shops survive, and even thrive?
1) The most obvious answer is to adjust our own shopping habits – BUT, if this is something you believe in, there are ways you can get others on board and help to build a movement.
2) Sign up to a local currency – such as the Brixton Pound, the Lewes Pound (see below), or the Totnes Pound. These currencies are making a difference all over the UK, and indeed all over the world. They’re not legal tender, although they do look like notes. They basically work a bit like tokens, so if you have one of these in your local area, you can enchange your Pound Sterling for the currency and you’ve got a ready-made incentive in your wallet or purse to shop in local stores. The shops signed up to these schemes will also often offer their own incentives, such as money off, so consumers get something back.
3) Sign up to a local loyalty card. An example of this is the Live Love Local card, which launched in south east London this April. At the moment it serves areas such as Peckham, Dulwich and Herne Hill, and shoppers get money off when they use it to buy something or book something.
4) Get your local indy stores to start using the new website My High Street, and start shopping there yourself. The site brings together the benefits of shopping locally with the convenience of shopping online. Consumers earn ‘hi points’, which they can spend at a later date through the website, and businesses get useful point-of-sale materials, a web presence and an online community focal point.
With the help of tactics such as these, we can fight the creep of clone towns, keep valuable expertise on the high streets, and build stronger, more resilient local economies – something I believe is crucial right now.
If you’ve got any other ideas, I’d love to hear them – tweet me @armchairaction.
I’ll leave you with a picture of a special edition Lewes Pound, given to me on Saturday by a very lovely member of the audience. Nice eh?