It is seven weeks until Christmas Day and although we might feel as though autumn has just begun, it won’t be long before our High Streets are adorned with twinkling Christmas lights and festive decorations (let’s face it, the Christmas cards are already out in the shops!).
As a huge supporter of Tonbridge High Street, last year I decided to try to buy as many Christmas gifts and festive food from local, independent retailers. It took more effort compared to just clicking on Amazon or Tesco and the like and I needed to give myself more time, but it felt so fulfilling!
On the whole, I succeeded in my mission: I felt great when I bought locally knowing the impact that it would have on that business owner and loved gifting something that friends and relatives hadn’t seen in the chain stores.
So aside from the wonderful feeling for the consumer of buying independently, why does it matter?
1. It’s someone’s livelihood. Their shop is what pays the bills, puts food on the table and allows them to sleep with a roof over their head. Christmas sales can account for as much as two thirds of an independent retailer’s annual turnover – that’s quite a lot! The ‘happy dance’ that you read about independent retailers doing is for real!
2. Your local shop owner cares so much more about your purchase than the supermarkets and online megastores that their customer service will be top drawer. You’ll receive a warm welcome, expert advice on your purchase; they’ll do their utmost to provide whatever’s on your shopping list – for example, Ian Chatfield Butchers and Hayward’s Farmshop don’t always have minced lamb on display but they’ll go to make it for you there and then!; indy food retailers might let you ‘try before you buy’ which you definitely can’t do with the online retailers or in supermarkets. Your sale really matters to them (see point 1) and they want to secure it so they should be tripping over themselves to ensure that they do.
3. Did you know that for every £10 spent locally and independently, up to £50 is invested back into the local economy? The shop owner will spend that £10 on shopping locally themselves, buying from local suppliers, eating out and socialising on the High Street … so it really benefits the community.
4. Another positive impact on the community is a thriving, buzzing High Street – it generates employment and boosts house prices. This not only makes your local area a better place to live in the short term, but longer term, encourages local authorities to spend money on maintenance – street furniture, improved outdoor spaces, better roads etc (although know that can be a pain too!). Money attracts money and outside investment is more likely to come a-calling to a boom town rather than one with empty units and quiet pavements.
5. Last but certainly not least, the reduced impact on the environment. The carbon footprint on Christmas Day croissants bought from The Bakehouse is going to be significantly less than those bought from supermarkets! Likewise Rob Smith from Pavilion Flowers, is working from 3am, driving around local farms to collect produce and so much of what he sells is seasonal.
Buying locally is what I really embrace with the EAT Picnic Bags and the foodie gift crates – these are a way for you to ‘support local’ whilst attending an event, hosting a meeting or looking for an unusual gift. Contact me if you have a gift or an event that you’d like to discuss …
Back to Christmas – I am hosting this year and once again I will endeavour to buy all the ingredients for this special meal as locally as possible and I would encourage you to do the same. Really think about where you shop as it does matter and it does make a difference… as well as eating around Tonbridge, I encourage you to shop around Tonbridge!
And as you walk out after your purchase, turn around – you might just sneak a peek of a happy dance!
(Now thinking I need some video of local food and drink retailers doing a happy dance – whaddya think?!)
This blog was adapted from a longer blog that I wrote with my freelance writing business hat on (Caroline Kings Writer) about shopping independently and, of course, choosing freelancers over large agencies! Below are my ‘Top Tips’ on Christmas gift shopping from independent retailers.
1. Ideas – I’d recommend going shopping with some ideas for gifts. You’re not walking through the Amazon warehouse when you shop on your High Street so present ideas aren’t going to throw themselves at you in quite the same way. But also be open minded – as I said, your local shopping area will have some unique gifts from clever local crafters, designers and artists that you may not have considered.
2. Leave time – buying locally and independently definitely takes longer as you can’t just spend a Friday night searching online and ordering for next day delivery. It may also be that your friendly shop keeper needs to order something in for you, so leave time for that too. Start as soon as you can!
3. If you can’t find everything on your doorstep, don’t be put off your mission. Around Christmastime there are lots of markets and fairs where you’ll find a myriad of artisan products, often made very locally, all under one roof.
4. Prepare to pay more – you may end up spending more than you would’ve if you’d bought online – this applies to food too – but I think it’s worth it for the quality of product, customer service and bespoke attention that you receive.