This week a retail giant said, “There will be no more high streets in smaller towns. Everybody is dropping small, expensive, inefficient shops” As Mary Portas hits the headlines as Cameron’s sidekick, this quote presents a pernicious argument against our high street. Is this what we want for our local towns? In this debate issues of car parking, price and convenience ring out against uniqueness, community and service. If you live in the Stroud valleys, fortunately you still have a choice, we have fantastic high streets on our door steps, but if you don’t use them not only will you lose them but you lose your voice to have an opinion too.
I have been exclusively using our local high streets since November and I can repeat, not only is it easy but it’s jolly nice too. There is nothing nicer than buying something recommended by a knowledgeable assistant. At the heart of shopping locally is great customer service and it is our job as shopkeepers to uphold this.
The other strong advantage our local towns have over those that have died is being “foodie towns”. I think that if a town has food in it -butchers, bakers and a greengrocers, they are poised to survive. Nailsworth and Stroud have these and Cirencester and Tetbury do too. Not to mention great markets, I believe if people can buy their groceries regularly in a town’s independents then the other shops can survive too.
This all comes in the same week that one of my favourite shops in Nailsworth that I have been closely involved with closed down. This just reminds me how essential it is to use them but also what hard work it is to run a shop. There is a popular but wrong misconception that its an easy life having a shop where you can shut up at five and just walk away. Truth is, there has never been a more challenging time to be in retail.
I implore you, with a smile for the shopkeeper and an open purse to use your high street and play your part in seeing them thrive.