To buy local or not buy, that is the question. We have recently added a ‘Made in Britain‘ page to our site to advocate our strong belief in buying local, British goods. This topic had all of us at Lancashire Pine talking about the importance of buying local. Here are our thoughts on why we believe dozens of local stores are superior to a single giant under-one-roof store, for both the consumer and our economy.
It may not come to your surprise to hear that in the long term, we shoppers are best served when there’s an abundance of competitors in the market. But did you know the big retail companies are known in the industry as category killers? Category killers do exactly what it says on the tin. They don’t want to compete with local stores; they want to be the only business in town.
How do they eliminate the competition? Well, usually a chain store will enter a town publicising super discounts, which will be at a loss to the store. This attracts a large amount of consumers (of course!) and starts the war with the local companies, a battle they simply cannot win. Unable to compete with unsustainable prices, they lose their custom and close down. Once the chain has successfully eliminated independent rival stores, they are quick to raise their prices by as much as 30% to start gaining back the introductory loss of profit.
It is known that prices are raised in markets where the retailer faces little to no competition. However, this time the customer has no alternatives to buy from. With no power or influence over the prices and products, the consumer ends up being more out of pocket then before the super store came to town.
As for super stores claiming to have a “wider selection” than its smaller rivals – be wary! Independent, local merchants are the first to sell varied interesting products by other smaller companies. By contrast, most national chains refuse to do business with smaller to medium sized businesses, preferring to deal with large manufactures only. The result? Chains have limited choice, play it safe, and choose profit over originality and everyone’s home ends up looking the same.
Meanwhile, small manufactures with innovative products, small publishers who have exquisite choice in books and fine tailors that sell better quality of clothing, all turn out to have a rather difficult time reaching consumers.
Consider the impact of the big games store ‘Toys R Us’. The choice of board games is limited to ironically ‘Monopoly’ as well as Cluedo, Battleship, Connect 4 and a dozen or so other classics. Associating with other big businesses means the only variation in board games are themes based on Disney’s latest film or a Nickelodeon TV show, both owned by Viacom. Instead of taking a risk with a new inventive, fun, family board game, we are offered the same products wrapped in different advertisements.
Compare to an independent run toy shop, selling a diverse choice of well thought out designed games. Able to take risks without suffering from huge profit losses, they can pick and choose, take requests, and note the demands of their customers. Without their existence, many well-loved games would never have been noticed and enjoyed by the public.
Even if chain stores do offer to save us pennies now and again, it comes at a greater cost. Chain stores contribute far less to the local economy than independent businesses. PR spins the development of a new super store as a great addition to the local economy. They tally up the number of new jobs and the growth in shopping spendage and pronounce the new development as a solution to the economy.
Of course, what’s often ‘overlooked’ are the figures on the other side of the balance sheet. Retail super stores simply shift consumer spending from one side of the town to another. You discover that very little of the sales generated by a new super store represent new retail spending. That is because a super stores need a strong customer base, thus can only be successful if at least the majority of their business comes from existing business within the community. What is the end result? Not economic growth, rather economic displacement, and that’s something entirely different altogether.
Busy high streets with lots of local shops tend to keep stability and diversity firmly structured in town. Locally owned means they are rooted in the community and less likely to up-root, seeing it through the harder-times.
Chain stores on the other hand have a habit of implanting themselves into communities, turning local stores bust. Then if profits do not meet targets, the large superstore can be closed with little notice, leaving a gaping hole in the community. A town is left for dead, with nothing to show for it except an abandoned large building, which stands vacant indefinitely.
Finding an occupant for such a costly and specific large property is a nightmare. It is not unheard of for empty buildings like these to stay unoccupied for almost a decade.
Community culture is dried up the moment your high street looks and feels the same as every other high street. Clone towns are not attractive to tourists, they don’t distil a sense of uniqueness and community pride, and the only flavour their district gives is one of plain ready salted!
Local business can make decisions that communicate with their communities. They can, for instance, support a local charity, stock a controversial book or screen an independent film, sponsor a youth sports team and close for a mourning neighbourhood. Big chains have to speak to their head office, which could be in another country, to check with their strict rules and regulations. This takes time, and the head office are less able to grasp what is so important to the community. And, that’s before we’ve seen the red tape.
A town flourishes when thousands of mini shops provide the needs and meet the demand of its people, not when several ‘all under one roof’ super stores take the reins for the whole community.
When you choose to buy local products it helps to keep money circulating, your home town flourishing, competitive costs and varied choice.
At LPC we strongly believe in keeping our business local. That’s why whenever possible we use local businesses to help with the running of our shop, from printing to sign writers.
Choose community. Choose choice. Choose local.