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Shopping locally and supporting your town

Shop Local – usually a sticker seen in shop windows or a hashtag to try a promote community well being and solidarity, but also an absolutely crucial day-to-day process that can make towns more financially sound and prosperous. Lee Humphries writes.

Towns and roads were all designed & built around a high street, pre-internet this was how all residents in towns and cities would shop and thereby increase their local economy. If you buy from your high streets, they in turn employ local people to serve the customers, create a buzz in town with the interactions and thus help generate a sense of community.

Reading old newspaper reports, you can see how high streets began to suffer with the creation of supermarkets in the ’70s. These supermarkets were often in town centres, taking trade away from all the small local retailers like butchers, fishmongers, bakers, florists, fruit & veg shops, etc – as they provided the ‘ convenience ‘of shopping under one roof’. Supermarkets then expanded into selling pharmaceutical products to challenge chemists and then later on, were able to take on the pub trade by reducing the cost of alcohol – and many pubs fell victim to supermarket prices across the UK.

As supermarket chains massively expanded in the ’80s and ’90s, some were built out of town to provide both bigger warehousing of products and much larger car parks to attract more shoppers. The supermarkets undoubtedly had an effect on smaller local retailers, often family run businesses, taking their trade and their employment of local people away. Later, they also tried to take on book sellers and record shops by starting to sell books & music.

Some smaller towns and villages bucked that trend and stuck to having smaller independent shops  – not going with the council trend of demolishing lots of shops to make way for a shiny new shopping centre, like Hastings council did with it’s public cricket pitch. Rye, for example, didn’t flatten itself to build a ‘Priory Meadow’ and retains that uniquness which the Old Town enjoys by not having chain stores. Tourists love to see old town architecture and quaint independent shops as it is a more pleasant experience than visiting a bland town, which just has the chain stores you have in every town all over the country so they all look identical.

Shopping locally clearly helps to encourage shops to remain open – ’empty shops’ is never a good look in any town – and makes that town an inviting place to visit. Plus it helps generate a more equally functioning economy, as one person’s spending is another person’s income. Should all the people of a town shop locally where possible, it becomes a bustling hub of activity.

No one could have predicted the rise of internet shopping. This has clearly had a disatrous effect on high streets up and down the country. People sit at home and press the ‘buy now’ button, depriving the local town of income. Also, the other bizarre way people shop is to make the effort to go into town, take a photo of that product and then choose to boycott the shops in the town, handing it to their favourite monoply on their mobile app.

As a certain monopoly gained massive expansion across the globe, helped only by people boycotting their local shops, this has had a devastating effect on high streets leaving empty shops and lack of local employment. It then leaves residents of those towns hoping an Amazon warehouse will be built, offering 400 jobs to be taken by the same surrounding town who are boycotting their shops for the convenience of having someone drive their goods to their door.

The same monoploy uses tax avoidance schemes to help funnel profits away from those towns into tax havens. In turn, for saying it will bring jobs to the chosen town, it then demands public money be taken away from the town it operates in and will also seek to get even more money by winning government contracts for cloud hosting. You can aruge that Amazon are job creators, however there are only ever going to be a certain amount of commodities sold – whether you buy it from a shop or online – the jobs are either in high streets shops or they are sold from a warehouse – your choice.

For the 100,000 population of Hastings, you’d think the town would be thriving economically. However, when you see the unmarked vans driving around all day delivering goods you can see why its struggling. Shops that do well are those where you can’t buy online: hairdressers, nail bars, certain pubs, tattooists; plus the coffee chains & fast food outlets (although they can be bought online). These shops will remain, as will the charity shops – as a dumping ground for all the cheap stuff people bought online.

What would improve Hastings would be to make it a university town, attracting students globally and spending locally similar to Brighton. Having better public transport that is both more affordable and reliable and doesn’t finish early. Hastings is mostly uphill and inland, so having a bus service that stops by 6pm on a Sunday is not encouraging folk to come out at night. Neither is only having one bus an hour on certain routes. Having the last train to London leave Hastings at 9.20pm also discourages visitors from staying later, when a fast train to London Bridge stopping once in Tunbridge Wells that left Hastings at 11pm would be helpful.

The Preston model is also another good example, whereby the council brought all contracted out work back in-house – and where specialist contractors are used, they would all be local ones to encourage local spending.

Ideally, more public sector jobs are needed in Hastings and around the UK to help have more employment and enable more spending in these much starved coastal towns that rely on seasonal tourism, which is ok for those shops selling beer, chips & ice cream but not many others.

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Posted 15:46 Wednesday, Jun 8, 2022 In: Shops & Things

1 Comment

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  1. Kathryn Sargent

    Losing our university was a visceral blow whose repercussions are still being felt. Could we have another go? The buildings remain, barely used.
    Lacuna Place is aptly named: an empty space in the heart of Hastings.

    Comment by Kathryn Sargent — Monday, Jun 13, 2022 @ 17:47

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