Love Stokey? Shop local
Hands up if you’ve browsed the shops on Church Street then Googled to see if you can buy the same items cheaper online.
I have. But lately I’ve spent time getting to know the local shop owners and I’ve had an epiphany. These aren’t just shops – for many of us they’re places to meet and mingle, to feel a part of the community, they’re quirky, unique and full of character and characters.
Do you know that the chap who runs the shoe shop is called Norbert and his sons work there too? Did you know that Born was started by two sisters 13 years ago who were determined to supply chemical-free, fair-trade products? Did you know that the bookshops on the High Street are run by a husband and wife team and that they’re heavily involved in the literary festival? Did you know that Roger in Metal Crumble makes most of the jewellery he sells? Have you really thought about the work that the Tea Rooms and Esters and many more local cafes put into baking fresh cakes every day?
Many of our local businesses have diversified to provide more of an experienced-based service - you can take courses at MEAT the butchers, you can learn first aid at Born, your children can take ballet lessons at N16 Flowers and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Our local business owners have taken great care to choose products they think you’ll like – because they know their local community. We are incredibly lucky to have such niche, personal shops and restaurants in our neighbourhood.
Yet rents, rates, competition from Internet stores and what one local store-holder described as a emerging determination by shoppers to haggle, means many of our amazing local businesses are scraping by.
Don’t get me wrong – big stores and the Internet have a role to play and my bank balance can’t stretch to buying everything from niche stores. But now there’s a little voice in my head that, particularly for the smaller-ticket items, says ‘shop local’.
I’m the first to hunt for a bargain. I love sales. But I also love Stokey and the thought of losing the magic of our area because we browse local but buy elsewhere turns my blood cold.
Just imagine what Stokey would be like if it was full of anonymous High Street brands owned by big corporations – another soulless town populated with Starbucks and TopShops and McDonalds.
So here’s my plea. If you love Stokey as much as I do then please don’t begrudge the extra cost of buying local a little more – think of it as a little community tax, a fee for service, for being able to truly browse and for environment.