How I found my love of local
Feel free to scroll straight down to the list if you just want to cut to the chase. If you’re of a certain age, you’ll appreciate how the word ‘local’ has come full circle back into being in fashion and desirable. When I was growing up, I had some sense that local was last thing I wanted. I was keen to escape what seemed to be a very boring place. Local pubs seemed miserable places where conversation stopped when someone new entered. And of course, if you’ve ever watched the darkly satirical comedy, The League Gentlemen, the “local shop for local people” was definitely to be avoided. Local, at least for me, was associated with small-minded and inward looking. And that was the last thing I wanted to be.
Somewhere along the line, the connotations of local changed for me. Maybe I just got older and wiser, but I feel like local had a revival. Maybe the narrative of the 1980s and 90s that bigger equalled better just eventually wore a bit thin. Perhaps we finally appreciated if globalisation equals homogenisation then everywhere just feels bland and boring. But something changed. Local is no longer associated with stale, parochial and provincial. Today’s local is dynamic and cosmopolitan. Today’s local is also inclusive. When I talk about how much love Derbyshire I mean a contemporary, multicultural, vibrant Derbyshire.
I’d also like to stress it’s not about being perfect or having unreasonably high standards. We still get a weekly ‘big shop’ from Tesco, I often grab a Starbucks on the way to work and my husband makes very good use of his Amazon Prime account, so we definitely aren’t ‘purists’ about this. But, I do try to support local when I can. And I feel good about every single purchase.
Anyway, enough waffle! Let’s get down to the reasons why you should shop local when you can.
Shop Local – 7 Reasons to Support Local & Independent
Good for the local economy
Shopping local creates jobs, keeps people in work and keeps businesses running. Local businesses tend to hire local people. Every pound spent in the local economy tends to circulate longer within it. A great example of a company who pride themselves on this is Alfreton based, Just Jigsaws. All their machine parts are manufactured in Alfreton, prints and corrugated cartons are manufactured in Derbyshire, all the timber is sourced in the Midlands and all their boxes are manufactured in nearby Leicester. So buying one of their high quality jigsaws doesn’t just support them but all of their local suppliers too. Another great example is Design 44 located in Derbion (the new name for Derby’s Intu centre). The design led gift and eco store showcases over 50 independent businesses, many of them local.
Buying locally grown and made products is simply better for the environment. Let’s take fruit and vegetables. Seasonal, locally grown fruit and veg is infinitely better than anything that has travelled halfway across the world, likely packaged in single use plastic and sold in supermarkets. It’s a no brainer that it has less food miles. The same is true of dairy and meat. I love supporting our local milkman, knowing that the milk comes from nearby farms and that the glass bottles drastically reduce the plastic waste we have created. If you’re interested in supporting local eco businesses, read about six great ones here.
The trouble with the big faceless chains is that often the service is mediocre at best. Often people aren’t paid well enough to truly care about the service they’re providing. Compare that to a family run, local business who instinctively just take more pride in what they’re doing. Many of the local businesses I know pride themselves on getting to know their customers and that results in friendlier, more personalised service. And if you’ve ever been caught in the vicious circle of computerised ‘customer service’ systems where you just go round and round pressing 1 for this and 2 for that, you’ll appreciate that sometimes it’s better to just to talk to an actual human being who knows what’s what.
Responsive and customer focused
My favourite local businesses have one thing in common, they’re responsive and customer focused. We’ve all heard the old adage about putting customers first, but how often do the big chains actually do this? I love how innovative many small businesses have been. I’m sure they’re all sick to the back teeth of having to ‘pivot’ this crazy year. But that’s what successful operations do. They flex and change to supply demand. Want to click and collect? Or get local delivery? If customers want to order via WhatsApp or an Instagram DM and they can accommodate that, great! Everyone’s happy. Let’s Taco ‘Bout It is a great example of a business model that works well to meet customers’ habits. Read more about them here.
When I think of the local shops I know and love, what they all have in common is the exceptionally good quality of the products they sell. Whether that’s a local farm shop (read about my favourites here) and the delicious foodie treats or the freshly baked bread from your local bakery, often the quality is simply better in local shops and independent retailers.
Keeps our high streets interesting and vibrant
In my mind there is nothing more depressing than the homogenisation of British high streets. Who wants the same bland serving everywhere they go? I certainly don’t. I want to soak in the local character, and enjoy whatever’s great about that place, and then enjoy the difference when I go somewhere new. Derby’s Saddler Gate, Chesterfield’s Chatsworth Road and Dale Road in Matlock are just three excellent places for independent shops.
Shopping locally helps forge strong, united communities. We’ve seen this first hand during the hardships of the last year. When the supermarkets struggled to cope with panic buying, local businesses rose to the challenge. Increasingly, communities might operate digitally. But those fundamental aspects of human interaction remain unchanged. People helping other people.