The League of Gentlemen made gave us the rather sinister catchphrase “this is a local shop for local people.” But, whilst these characters were “local” in the worst sense of the world, we should all be proud to shop local and support local businesses.
Reasons to support local businesses
Keeping money circulating in the local economy. A study by the New Economics Foundation in London found that every £10 spent at a local food business is worth £25 for the local area, compared with just £14 when the same amount is spent in a supermarket. By buying on-line this is likely to be reduced even further.
Lower environmental impact – particularly for the food sector, locally grown produce means a lower carbon foot-print in terms of transport, packaging and the chemicals required to preserve the goods. My food-miles for our Sunday roast is about 20 miles: the round trip for me to go to the local Farm shop and the distance from the farm to the butchers for the meat. You do need to eat in season though to maximise this benefit. English- grown tomatoes in February, for instance, will have required large amounts of heating to produce and therefore cost more in environmental terms than imports.
Better value for money – it may seem cheaper to buy at the supermarket but how long do the products last? Mucky carrots from my local farm shop are still fabulously tasty after 3 weeks, washed carrots from the supermarket; soft and going brown. Meat from the local butcher is not full of water, so a little bit goes a long way, particularly chicken breasts and bacon. In terms of taste, my family started eating far more vegetables once we started shopping a local farm shop.
Social inclusion – local businesses are very important to the community. Post Offices and newsagents, for instance, can play a vital role in caring for the most vulnerable people in society and the local butcher is often a hub of information about the locality.
Diversity – by supporting local businesses we are supporting diversity and innovation. Take a look at any high street or, even worse, the out-of-town shopping centre and they all have the same stores, selling the same goods. The large stores only sell the best-selling lines and force out the smaller independents who rely on these lines as their main income stream. A typical example of this was when the latest Harry Potter book was released. The large superstores were selling them at a price lower than an independent store could buy them in for, pricing the independents out of the market. The superstore, however, will never sell specialist poetry books, for instance. When we lose the bookstore because it was priced out of the popular market, we lose access to specialist books and specialist knowledge.
Please don’t think I’m some sort of evangelist who never steps foot in a supermarket. I have a tight budget and certain things can only be bought at the superstores (now that greengrocers are no more!!!). But I do buy weekly from a farmshop and a local butcher. I try to buy presents from more unusual shops and eat and drink at locally owned restaurants and pubs. When I go on holiday, either in the UK or abroad I try to do the same.
It can be more time consuming, but is more pleasurable than buying and eating mass-produced goods. Remember, the independents that have survived have done so because they provide high quality products, good service and value for money.