Communities benefit from shopping small – it is powerful

Communities benefit from the power of shopping small. It is a subject, as you know, that is very close to our hearts at Essentially Local. We try to be realistic about what it means. For most of us, it would be impossible to only shop at independent outlets, however, to shop in this way when you can is powerful.

We asked Jenny Letts from The Fruity Farmer to share her thoughts on the subject. Jenny is the owner and producer of the delicious gins and other liqueurs as well as producer of a local rapeseed oil. She sells online and also through local farmers’ markets.

Jenny’s thoughts – The power of shopping local

Did you know that if every adult in the UK spent just £1 every day with a small business it would add £12 billion to local economies? Let’s just take a moment to really think about that. Just £1 a day?

Small business guru Holly Tucker dedicated the month of June to her amazing campaign Shop Independent. It’s her mission to spread the word about the power of shopping small & local and how important it is to our economy.

Whilst it is all too easy to reach for Amazon or the myriad other large national or international conglomerates, it really makes a difference to shop small. Is there a shop on your nearest High Street that sells the thing that you’re looking for on Amazon? Do you need to order another gift from Next or is there a small business online you could order from?

Small businesses often offer an amazing range of top-quality choices from other small, independent, and artisan makers and producers. Not only that, price-wise small businesses are mostly very well priced compared to the giants. And if you pay slightly more, you’re getting an individual and far less ‘run of the mill’ product.

Shopping small is convenient too. Walk down your local High Street and see what you can buy; have a look around your local market stalls; visit a local village shop – they are treasure troves!; browse small businesses online. You’ll find the most incredible, colourful, vibrant and wonderful community.

Small businesses also offer local jobs and often collaborate with one another to come up with fantastic services, products and events. Small really is powerful.

Our view

Shopping small does so much for communities – convenience is one thing, employment is another and of course, you get the product too. However, one of the most important things that local businesses offer to communities is support. Shops provide produce or products for raffles and competitions. Local services carry out work like tidying community areas or fixing items without charge in community buildings. Of course, we accept that bigger organisations may also offer support, but it is the small ones that seem to offer the day-to-day help. They rarely expect free publicity.

The barrier of time

Whereas most of us would love to always use local facilities, there are often barriers. Time walking up and down the High Street is often perceived as too long. Incredibly though, most of us will spend an hour or more in a supermarket. Often, this is longer than planned and more expensive. Obviously, it’s hard to resist strategically placed offers that lure us into spending more on things we don’t want or need.

Personally, I am shocked that local people will not walk 3 minutes from a car park to an independent shop. Yet, I note that Saturday shoppers will walk 3 minutes from the furthest car parking space to get into the store. Of course, they’ll have spent 10 minutes fighting and waiting for a space directly outside the door before giving up!

It costs too much

Cost is also an issue. When it comes to food, families don’t necessarily have the financial power to go anywhere but the cheaper supermarkets. We must remember that they employ local people who may spend locally so may bring money back. Equally, we should consider if buying a slightly more expensive sausage from a farm like Cranley Barn Farms is money better spent. Sometimes, the mix of a cheaper product with the independently produced can bring the balance. However, the adage ‘Eat less, eat better’ is there for a reason.

Location, location, and more

We are only too aware that where you live also makes a difference. If you live in central Milton Keynes it is not necessarily easy to get to the market towns. As great as Stony Stratford, Wolverton, Towcester, Olney and Buckingham are, are those car miles good for the environment? However, with fewer miles in locally produced items, does it balance out?

We’re all different

What we do know and accept is that our needs are all different. We believe that you don’t need to buy everything locally. However, by committing to using local once or twice a month, you will be making a difference to your community. Hopefully, you’ll also see that just because it’s big or online it isn’t necessarily easier, better, or cheaper. So go on start shopping small.