A friend once said to me “thank god they’ve closed down, I don’t have to feel guilty every time I walk past!”. It really made me laugh, mainly because I knew exactly what she meant. She was talking about a little shop that had opened near us about a year before. It sold little nik-naks and gifts, candles and the like. And now it was no more, another moribund local business, another budding entrepreneur who had fallen by the wayside. You often hear people talk of buying local in an effort to support local businesses, to give your high street a buzz of variety and to stop the endless reign of tired, empty retail units making a town look half finished or severely delapidated. I’m always slightly sceptical when it comes to the buy-local-drum-bangers, I’m never sure if they actually put their money where their mouths are. I mean, what normal Joe Bloggs has the cash to afford such luxuries, when a cheaper and more convenient option is always on offer? If you’re anything like me, or indeed my friend, a guilty conscience and innate sense of awkwardness means that I’m always going to buy local. And maybe that’s what these businesses rely on. It’s not necessarily that I need to buy anything from them, but more a case of me worrying that they won’t be able to feed their kids, or they might lose the house if I don’t buy that handmade, overpriced candle…..every week.
You do have to question some people’s business sense. Who draws up a plan to open a tiny shop, which sells a tiny selection of ridiculously overpriced gift ideas, in a location that has hardly any footfall, but hopes to run a viable business? The sort of shop that is so sparse, that if you dare to venture inside, the silence and hopeful stare of the owner who is perched behind the till forces you to make an unwanted purchase, just to end the awkwardness of leaving empty handed! This isn’t buy local, this is buy bully!
On the other hand I’m flying the flag for the local shops. They’re living the dream…kind of. They had a dream to be the king of their own castle, to have a lovely little place that is theirs, to be their own boss and stick it to the man! Why not?! Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I mean, people might want mountain memorabilia and paraphernalia in the middle of a little suburban nook. They might. And they might want so much of it, that the owners will soon be selling the business on for a small fortune, retiring to a sunny villa somewhere, to enjoy the fruits of their labour. Or, the to let sign will be going up once more, and my guilty conscience and my empty purse can have a rest for a while.